I’m pleased to say that my post here two weeks ago, on the way that belief in progress depends on a certain kind of historical amnesia, got a lively and mostly thoughtful response. Oh, I fielded and deleted some saliva-flecked denunciations, to be sure, but that always happens when I try to pose hard questions about the faith-based mythology of perpetual progress that plays so important and unexamined a role in mass culture nowadays.
Faith in progress really is the established religion of our time. Most people nowadays believe in the inevitability of progress just as fervently as medieval peasants believed in saints and angels. What’s more, when the great majority of people talk about progress these days, they don’t simply mean that the technology of the future will be different from, and somewhat more complex than, the technology of today. No, it’s much more precise than that. Just as Joseph Campbell lopped and stretched all the world’s diverse mythologies into a single pattern he called the Monomyth, our collective imagination has done the same thing with the extraordinary range of possible futures our species might have, shrinking it down to a suffocatingly narrow and strictly enforced consensus we might as well call the Monofuture.
You know the Monofuture, dear reader. It’s been splashed across the media for decades, turned into the backgroud of an endless stream of repetitive movies and novels and video games, used just as repetitively to justify the downsides of the present. The Monofuture is when we finally get routine spaceflight, orbital habitats, colonies on other worlds—all the things my generation was promised in its childhood and hasn’t gotten yet. The Monofuture has fusion power or some other limitless clean energy source, it’s got equally limitless supplies of raw materials, and replicators or robot factories or some other gimmick so that everyone gets all the consumer goods they want. It’s got flying cars, of course, and humanoid robots, and superhumanly intelligent AIs, and all the other technological wet dreams that have been squirted across the imagination of the industrial world for decades now. For a place that doesn’t exist, it has immense emotional power, and one measure of that power is just how upset believers in the Monofuture get if you point out that it’s not going to happen.
Probably the easiest way to see this in operation is to suggest in public that human beings are never going to colonize other planets. If you do that, I can promise you that you’ll get an impressive degree of pushback. As it happens, there are a great many good reasons to think that human beings are in fact never going to colonize other planets. We can start with the nightmarish economics of establishing self-supporting colonies on the frozen, airless, bleach-laced deserts of Mars, go from there to the bleak fact that no other habitable body in the solar system besides Earth has a magnetic field capable of protecting vulnerable human tissues from the torrents of hard radiation blasting out from the vast unshielded thermonuclear reactor at the center of the solar system, and proceed through all the other reasons why manned space flight has turned out to be nothing more than an expensive and temporary hobby of rich nations.
Of course there are plenty of arguments in circulation as to why none of these things matter. It’s entertaining, if nothing else, to test these arguments against something that isn’t part of the Monofuture. For example—to return to a point that’s been made in this blog already—all the arguments that have been made for the colonization of Mars can be made with even more force for the colonization of central Antarctica. Compared to Mars, Antarctica is practically a tropical paradise: the climate’s significantly warmer, water and oxygen are much easier to come by, there’s a planetary magnetic field screening out most of the Sun’s dangerous radiation, mineral resources are at least as abundant, the soil’s not saturated with toxic perchlorates, getting there is easy with existing technology, and if something goes wrong, help can get there in a day or two—it’s not nine long and silent months away if Earth and Mars happen to be in the right orbital configuration just then, and anything up to twice that if you’re not so lucky.
You can make equally sound arguments why colonizing the top of Mount Everest, the bottom of the Marianas Trench, the waterless and windswept Takla Makan desert of central Asia, or just about any other environment on Earth makes more sense than colonizing Mars. All of them are better suited to human habitation than Mars, and Mars is better suited to human habitation than any other body in the solar system other than Earth. Why aren’t colonists signing up to colonize Antarctica, then? Because the colonization of Antarctica isn’t part of the Monofuture, and so most people can do the math and figure out that an Antarctic colony makes no sense.
Such clarity is rarely to be found when it comes to the Monofuture. What you get instead is a remarkable degree of devout enthusiasm propped up with some of the most colorfully absurd thoughtstoppers to be found in captivity. I lost track a long time ago, for example, of the number of people I’ve heard insist in this context that “anything that people can conceive, they can achieve.” That’s absurdity on a truly grand scale—I can conceive quite readily of a working perpetual motion machine, a Paddington Bear stuffie the size of the entire cosmos, a four-sided triangle, and colorless green ideas that sleep furiously, just for starters—but if you question the weary fantasy of space colonization, you can count not only on hearing it, but on watching those who propose it scramble around for reasons why a claim so obviously false in every other context must be true in this one.
You can have serious fun with those who insist on the thoughtstopper just cited, if that interests you. Ask someone who believes in it whether human beings will ever be able to predict the future by observing the movements of the planets, for example, and you can be sure of getting an indignant denial! Astrology, while it’s quite easy for people to conceive—and indeed many millions of people today do so—isn’t part of the Monofuture, and so it’s not defended by the belief system we’re discussing. I’ve referred to that belief system as faith in progress, but again, the word “progress” has to be understood in a very nuanced way. Figuring out how to predict the future by observing planetary movements would be a very remarkable sort of progress indeed, but believers in progress aren’t interested in that. The kind of progress in which they place their faith is much more narrowly defined; it consists solely of progress toward the Monofuture.
And the Monofuture itself, with its space colonies and flying cars, its superintelligent computers and clever humanoid robots, its life-extension technologies and replicators churning out consumer goods from thin air at the push of a button, its limitless pollution-free energy sources and gleaming cities where people of every race and gender have exactly the same lifestyles and beliefs and opinions about everything that matters—where did it come from? How come this single, suffocatingly narrow notion of what the future has to be like has become such an item of faith in the industrial world that many people can’t imagine any other future at all—besides, that is, some masturbatory fantasy or other of apocalyptic mass death?
Here I have to hang my head and scuff my feet a little, because I’m pretty sure that the culprit is one of my favorite genres of literature. Yes, we’re talking about science fiction.
It’s only fair to say that science fiction didn’t start out talking about the Monofuture, or for that matter any of its standard-issue components such as space travel. Many historians of the genre agree that the first work of science fiction—the first story that centers on a scientific or technological development that hasn’t yet been achieved, and makes the consequences of that development central to the plot—is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and that’s not about space travel or any of the other standard features of the Monofuture. For that matter, the next two really great names in the history of science fiction, Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, devoted relatively little of their prodigious literary output to space travel or other Monofuturistic gimmicks.
What’s more, if you go on to the next golden age of science fiction, the pulp era between the wars, and read the stories as they appeared in the magazines of that era, you’ll find that a great many of the stories went out of their way to ignore the Monofuture or anything like it. Plenty of those stories were set in the ordinary world of the 1920s and 1930s, just as Frankenstein was set in the ordinary world of the late 18th century, and the discoveries and inventions described in the stories don’t change the world in the least. While most of those stories have sunk into oblivion at this point—some deservedly, some not—it occurs to me that a few of my readers may have read C.S. Lewis’s science fiction novel Out of the Silent Planet, which is cut from the same cloth.
Lewis’ story is a tale of space travel. The mad scientist who is an important character (and also, of course, one of the stock figures of the pulp SF era) has achieved the major technological breakthroughs needed to cross interplanetary space, and the protagonist of the series, an Oxford philologist named Elwin Ransom—yes, he was modeled by Lewis on a friend of his, another Oxford philologist named J.R.R. Tolkien—thus finds himself taking an unexpected journey to Mars. Does the world change utterly as a result? Not at all. When Ransom eventually gets back to Earth, he goes to the nearest pub to buy a pint in the serene certainty that nothing much on Earth has changed, or will change, as a result of the journey.
Mind you, stories already in print when Out of the Silent Planet was first published had begun the process of inventing the Monofuture, and you can find plenty of anthologies of old SF stories that cherrypick Monofuturistic tales out of the great mass that had nothing to do with space ships and flying cars. (That’s why it’s such an education to go back to the magazines as they appeared, and get a sense of what else science fiction was doing in those days.) Nor was the Monofuture the only game in town for a long time thereafter. If anything, as science fiction matured after the Second World War, the range of futures it was willing to explore broadened dramatically.
Now of course part of that had to do with something most people in SF won’t talk about these days—the huge crossover between pre-1980s science fiction and occultism. The takeover of science fiction fandom by materialist pseudoskeptics of the CSICOP variety in the early 1980s marked a radical shift in the genre. Before that time, a great many SF fans and no small number of important SF authors were up to their eyeballs in popular occultism. That’s why you’ll find a tolerably good description of parts of an early Wiccan initiation ritual in Heinlein’s novel If This Goes On…, why more than half the big names in 1950s and 1960s SF wrote novels in which psychic powers were the mainspring of the plot, and why the classified ads in the back of SF magazines were full of advertisements for occult correspondence courses. (It’s also why the first science fiction convention I ever attended, back in 1978, included workshops on Tarot divination—not something you found in such venues much after that.) It was a different world, a lot more open to alternative realities.
Still, there was a great deal more to it than that. Science fiction authors vied with each other in those days to come up with future societies that varied as wildly as possible from the world we inhabit today. Read Vonda McIntyre’s Dreamsnake, John Crowley’s Beasts, Brian Aldiss’ Hothouse, Susan Coon’s Rahne, M. John Harrison’s The Pastel City, and Poul Anderson’s The Winter of the World—just to cite the examples that come first to mind—and in each case you’re so far away from the Monofuture that you’d need a high-powered Macroscope to spot its traces way out there in the intergalactic distance.
Exactly what happened to science fiction in the decades immediately thereafter is a complex question. I suspect that part of it had to do with the space probes that brought back picture after picture of a solar system far less welcoming to human beings than anyone in the golden age of SF had ever speculated. Part of it, too, had to do with the awkward discovery that none of the many attempts to make space-based manufacturing pay for itself came close to breaking even, and let’s not even talk about living up to the enthusiastic handwaving in Arthur C. Clarke’s The Promise of Space and its many equivalents. Another part, surely, had to do with the mutation of SF from fringe literature to mass-market media property, a process set in motion by the frankly hokey if durable Star Trek franchise and propelled to warp speeds by the immense financial success of such Hollywood cash cows as Star Wars and E.T.: The Extraterrestrial.
Whatever the concatenation of causes, though, what had been one of the most innovative of literary genres became by and large as rigidly formulaic as Harlequin romances, with the Monofuture playing the role of the ruggedly handsome male lead and humanity as the female lead swooning into his cybernetically enhanced arms. One measure of that descent into formula was the chorus of outrage that rose in SF fandom a little while back when Kim Stanley Robinson, one of the best of the current crop of SF authors, published a frankly brilliant novel titled Aurora about a failed attempt at interstellar colonization. Such stories were entirely acceptable back when SF was open to a wider range of futures—John Brunner’s harrowing Total Eclipse and John Crowley’s lyrical Engine Summer are only two of many novels that used it as a theme—but the reaction to Robinson’s book? Here again, Harlequin romances offer the best equivalent: it’s exactly the sort of reaction you’d expect if Harlequin published a well-written romance novel in which the heroine, after meeting the hero and going through the usual plot twists, decided that she really did prefer to stay single after all.
That parallel, I suspect, points straight toward the reason why the monofuture has become stuck sideways in the collective imagination of our time. People don’t read Harlequin romances because they want realistic accounts of love; they read Harlequin romances because they want to enjoy a particular kind of fantasy that’s satisfying precisely because it doesn’t imitate real life. That’s what formulaic genre fiction does—and there’s nothing wrong with that. If readers feel a little better about themselves and the inevitable frustrations of their lives because they have the chance to wallow in lush daydreams about rich and ruggedly handsome guys who fall in love with ordinary women, or heroic adventures in which a mismatched bunch of protagonists wield the Magic McGuffin of Doom to save Upper Lower Southeast Central Earth from Lord Blorg the Bad, or cozy mysteries in which the middle-aged owner of the You Know You Want One More Chocolate Bonbon Shop single-handedly catches one diabolical murderer after another, or what have you, why, that’s one of the basic human needs that literature has always served.
Most of us, though, realize that our own romantic encounters aren’t going to have much of anything in common with what goes on between the covers of a Harlequin romance. Most of us understand that our chances of being called forth on a heroic quest to liberate Upper Lower Southeast Central Earth from Lord Blorg the Bad are significantly lower than our chances of winning the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes, and that if we end up witnessing a serious crime, the closest we can expect to get to feats of brilliant detection is a series of long sessions repeating the same eleven facts to bored detectives in a downtown office building. That is to say, we understand the difference between imaginative literature and the real world, and don’t pretend that the latter is under some kind of obligation to imitate the former.
That, in turn, is exactly where the contemporary myth of progress toward the Monofuture has run off the rails. It’s not just that there are solid reasons why we will never colonize other planets, or that flying cars have been built and tested repeatedly since 1917 and consistently turn out to be a lousy idea, or that fusion power was twenty years in the future when I was born and will still be twenty years in the future when the distant descendants of chipmunks study our fossilized bones. It’s that by most measurements, the quality of life for a majority of people in the US and a good many other industrial countries has been moving raggedly but remorselessly downhill since the 1970s and show no sign of changing direction.
Leave the enclaves where the comfortable preen themselves on how progressive they are, and go walk the mean streets of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Manchester, Glasgow, the decaying industrial faubourgs that ring Paris—well, I could go on at length, but the point stands: from those places, it’s easy to see that the Monofuture isn’t coming closer at all. It’s moving further off, heading to whichever elephant’s graveyard dreams seek out when it’s their time to die. That’s why so many people insist in such shrill terms that the Monofuture is still on its way, just you wait and see. As social psychologists have been pointing out for a good long time, it’s when a belief system no longer does an adequate job of explaining the world that people cling to it most dogmatically and get most irritable when it’s questioned.
One of my readers in a recent open post mentioned that in the circles he frequents, at least, the New Age belief system that was once so widespread has become rare enough that it’s a source of surprise when someone starts talking about creating their own reality and the rest of it. What happened there was no surprise to those who were paying attention. New Age teachers made a series of claims about what their teachings would do, and by and large, those claims didn’t pan out. The impressive number of people who tried to use New Age guru Rhonda Byrne’s “Law of Attraction” to get rich flipping real estate in the years immediately before the 2008-2009 crash, and lost their shirts as a result was just the last and biggest of a series of comparable fiascos.
Since the normal human response to that kind of failure is to double down at least once, what happened after the 2008-2009 crash is that a huge number of New Agers staked everything on the supposed end of the Mayan calendar on December 21, 2012. When that day came and went without incident, in turn, the New Age movement quietly dissolved. There are still people who believe in its teachings, to be sure, and in fact little enclaves of true believers are the normal aftermath of a failed prediction of this sort, but as a significant cultural force, it’s finished.
Exactly what will do the same thing to the cult of the Monofuture is an interesting question. That something will pull the plug on Tomorrowland sooner or later, though, is baked into the cake at this point. Science fiction, delightful though it is, is no more about real futures than romance novels are about real relationships, and the fate of the New Age movement demonstrates clearly enough what happens when true believers insist that the universe is obligated to cater to an overdeveloped sense of entitlement and fork over the future they think they deserve, just because they think they deserve it. What sequence of events will deliver that awkward but inescapable lesson to believers in the Monofuture is an interesting question; all things considered, though, I don’t think we’ll have to wait indefinitely to find out.
Yes, the original Star Trek was hokey but it’s debut was during the height of the Cold War and Vietnam. It showed us a possible future where we survived and matured as a civilization rather than perishing in a nuclear holocaust. The really good stories have always been about hope not despair; even in the de-industrialized future we face story tellers will include hopeful stories in their repertorie.
Dear John Michael Greer,
After reading your post it occurs to me that there is some low hanging fruit for novelists: how to romanticize the colonization of inner Antarctica in the year 2029? (Not my cup of snow, however.)
For a short while in the late 60s, as a young adolescent, I had a window into the world of SF writers. I got to meet the lovely Kate Wilhelm and she taught me to read Tarot cards. That became a lifelong habit. I think Kate used them as part of her storytelling, and I have done the same, using a Tarot layout to give me ideas for stories and structure for articles.
SF was wonderful then – huge world of ideas where, as you say, the Monofuture was but one storyline. Years later, my Pa, who wrote SF, got completely uninterested in it. He got into mystery thrillers as a genre and quit reading or writing SF altogether. Kate Wilhelm more or less did the same.
I also blame Star Wars and other pop culture exploitations. I remember seeing the first Star Wars movie in a theater when it came out and I hated it. I remember thinking that it was a sort of propaganda for war and that the dead, dry environments on the planets were preparing us for a dead world dominated by machines.
JMG, your description of the monofuture reminds me of Kundera’s ‘Grand March of History’. Those on it are so sure it’s the only possible goal, the only thing that will bring meaning to their lives. As a result they don’t count the cost of knowledge lost, beauty destroyed, or people left behind.
What’s worse, because of the amnesia inherent in the system (either Monofuturism or Grand Marchism) the same bad ideas keep getting trotted out again and again, no matter how much destruction they caused before. Motive has to trump reality.
Thanks for making me think, JMG. I will be looking forward to your inevitable evaluation of Marianne Williamson.
Btw, last week you said you were interested in media that may be predicting changes in the zeitgeist. AMC has a show called Lodge 49, which touches on a lot of ecosophian themes. I also think it shows there may be a renewal of fraternal organizations coming down the road.
I’ve been a Star Trek fan my whole life. Star Trek has become apocalyptic ever since Nemesis came out in the early 2000s. That’s about the time I stopped watching. It morphed from being about the best humanity could be, however hokey, to being trans-humanistic.
I think anyone who wants to see the end of the monofuture dream come to an end should pay attention to what happens in the new Star Trek Picard series coming out at the end of this year.
I’m taking some classes at the local technical college and during one of our discussions a classmate of mine said with real enthusiasm: “Wow, the future is going to be great!” Dead silence followed this, and looking around the room I saw a lot of sardonic little grimaces. It was surprising to realize how many people had lost faith even if they weren’t willing to say so.
Fascinating! Just as people sneered at the “love and light” crowd prior to its Dec. 21st 2012 expiration date, I feel that there is a tendency for folks today to sneer at the, ahem, “progressives”. I wonder if a Trump victory would be all that it would take to break the back of the Monofuture. MAGA is, of course, the antithesis of Star Trek. This then would help explain the political freak out — making something great again is directly opposed to a prevailing religious myth. And this new myth quite literally triumphed over the Monofuture. That must have shook people to their core.
The dogmatic insistence on the imminence of a “Star Trek future” was certainly one of the stepping-stones to my being unable to take Internet prog-dems seriously anymore. (The other major ones, in case anyone is wondering, was the insistence of prog-dems on defending Obamacare, not to mention the entire Obama Administration, regardless of what un-progressive boondoggles the facts showed them to be, and finally the fervent denial that Hillary Clinton stole the Democratic Party nomination for president from Bernie Sanders in 2016.)
Ah yes, the monofuture. I used to believe in it as it was the only future I saw advertised (aside from the sudden apocalypse). With it put behind me now I must say the world feels much stranger… Maybe I’m because i’m occupying some sort of middle ground while I slowly and haphazardly move toward a new future I don’t understand at all.
I can conceive of conceiving of something unachievable. I have fun pointing that out whenever people say something like “anything that people can conceive, they can achieve.”
And yet again this comes back to the 1980s. I wish I could understand what happened then, since it seems nearly every part of the mess we’re in ties back to whatever happened in that decade….
Oh, also, is the post on peak oil still upcoming?
Just thinking out loud, but I’m wondering of a possible tie between the fixation on the Monofuture you describe and the rise of globalism as an economic (and to a lesser extent political) force. The perspective that humanity *must* unify under some common polity seems to be a similarly strong belief–at least in certain political quarters–and any rejection of that view tends to be treated as a manifestation of evil (or at least, ignorance). I recall a conversation (one of the few civil exchanges I had) back during my active comment period on PoliticalWire, a conversation with a self-described humanist which I might have mentioned previously on the blog here. In any event, what I found fascinating was how the ideal of each of us–a multiplicity of unique nation-states and communities for me, and a single unified world for him–was anathema for the other. And we each used the Amish, in the context of separatists, as an example to bolster our arguments: as precisely what ought to be allowed in my view and precisely what ought not be allowed in his.
I can’t but think control is a factor here.
I agree that the hand clutches more tightly as one realizes the dream is slipping from one’s grip, but I wonder if the parallel of the desperation of the Monofuture with the present confrontation between a waning globalism and a resurgent nationalism across the globe has something to it.
Here’s a devastating sendup of Progress:
Thank you for another great essay. Having just turned 65, I’m still attempting to purge my own progress-based brain files where our present condition justifies the soon-to-arrive glorious future. Files are thicker and heavier than I first assumed.
BTW- I’m on “F” in your Elements Encyclopedia – what fun! Thanks for that book as well. The Alpha sequence of the book works great since the entries circle back and reinforce each other.
Dear Mr Greer
Just a quick question. What does CSICOP mean?
What I’m waiting to find out is what it will take people to realize that inflating speculative bubbles leads to tears and losing money. That’s been turning out badly for most people involved repeatedly the past two decades.
I would put my two cents in the retirement of America as the dominant country, in a clear and undeniable way.
This will be perhaps due to the collapse of the petrodollar, or “production” collapse of Bakken shale. The important thing is that it will be clear then that US power came from fossil fuels, and nothing is going to replace it.
People definitely appreciate stories about hope. Hope can definitely be a fantasy though. If the idea of hope is the only reality we are going to accept, that definitely leads us to some problems. It also makes me think of a good way to describe this type of sci-fi: sci-fi Disney style!
JMG, My fantasy escapism is more attuned to the “Firefly” videos than the Star Trek variety. A bunch of misfits roaming around in a beat up old space vehicle eking out a life on the fringes of an oppressive solar government.
That appeals to me much more then projecting our conflicts and wars endlessly into the future as in startrek and star wars.
The mono-future’s saturation is ever present. I work in policy and recently we had one of those interminable meetings about ‘The Future of X’, X being my particular area. While talking about environmental factors, the person leading the meeting reiterated the same globalization talking points that I’ve been hearing since I was young (for the record I was born in ’86 which puts me in the demographic of Rapidly Aging Millennial). Not thinking, I disagreed and stated that we seemed to be at the end of the globalization period for now, and that assuming it would continue would not give us the best results. There was a beat of silence, at which point our young PhD calmly explained to me that any backsliding in regards to globalization was temporary and that technological advancement would compensate for any economic or political push towards protectionism.
No, I don’t know how that’s supposed to work either.
I don’t blame them though. Living in Toronto, its very easy to belief in the mono-future. Toronto is a pretty great city, and manged to avoid having its center hallowed out AND the economic crash of 2008-09. Of course, this just means that it is slowly being turned into an enclave of the global 10% like Silicon Valley or Modern New York. It seems that almost all of our cultural landmarks or fun little bars/stores have been replaced by drugstore franchises (the only ones who can afford the rent). I was in Buffalo for some tabletop gaming fun a few weeks ago, and crossing the border from Southern Ontario to Western New York is like time travelling backwards 30 years. The paint is definitely starting to fade on the mono-future there.
Last random thought: Kim Stanley Robinson is awesome, and his 40 Signs of Rain trilogy is some of the best environmental, near-future science fiction that I have ever read. Also, I have never felt as personally called out by a book as I was by Gold Coast (second book in the Three Californias trilogy).
Since we are straddling the “debates”, last night and tonight: how would you recommend pitching Donald Trump to the Top 10% by income, center left, managerial/professional class types that make up most of my professional acquaintances?
Julie, I was a member of the original Star Trek audience, and I didn’t find it hopeful — even as a child, it struck me as just another rehash of familiar Cold War tropes. (I didn’t know the word “tropes” back then, but I’d noticed the endless recycling of familiar gimmicks.) The Federation was very clearly the USA, thus “USS Enterprise” — the handwaving around that point from Roddenberry et al. was unusually unconvincing even by their standards. (“United Star Ship”? Really? Were there divided ones?) The Klingons were the Russians, the Vulcans and Romulans the Japanese and Chinese respectively — the slanted eyebrows were an obvious dog whistle for the then-familiar racial label “slant-eyes” — and Kirk was a fantasy version of General Westmoreland who almost always succeeded in pacifying his extraterrestrial Vietnams. What’s happened to the franchise since then I can’t say, as I haven’t owned a television since before TNG premiered, but the original series left me cold.
Millicently, if I wrote that it would probably end up morphing into “At the Mountains of Madness”…
Seaweedy, I’m tempted to ask who your father was, as I read an enormous amount of 1960s and 1970s SF. If you don’t feel comfortable naming him, perhaps I can ask this — did he stop writing SF in the 1980s, around the time that Cyberpunk became fashionable? I ask that because that’s when my wife and I let our subscription to Asimov’s and our membership in the Science Fiction Book Club lapse, as the genre had moved in directions neither of us enjoyed any more.
Gollios, excellent! Yes, blind faith in progress is simply the gizmocentric version of what Kundera was talking about, which is why the same bad ideas get rehashed in the Monofuture as well as the Grand March. Thanks for the heads up about Lodge 49; I’ve just looked it up, and my head’s spinning — it’s not quite a JMG biopic, but my history with the Odd Fellows was not that different…
Austin, fascinating. I haven’t been following it, so didn’t realize this; thank you.
Dear JMG, thanks for the updated reading list. I will usually run out and find the books you’ve mentioned, and haven’t been disappointed. Currently muddling my way through Muddling Toward Frugality from my local library. (It last was taken out in 1998. They are slow to purge). Aurora was fantastic. Tepper: The Awakeners series, Little Big!!, Road to Corlay put me on to Cowpers. It’s interesting to see how some facets of these books have been digested and bubble back up to inform the ADR and your own writings. Still struggling with “The Glass Bead Game” however. I just haven’t been in the right mood to make it past the first chapter. Still trying.
Re globalization, etc.
We seem to be talking to folks of similar ilk. I wonder how long the disruption can be and still be thought of as “temporary”? I’m thinking that we’ll have the opportunity to find out over the coming years and decades…
To me human freedom necessitates a broad spectrum of manifestation rather than conformity. The consequences of biophysical limits aside, why would we all want everyone to be the same? What a horrifying thought!
College kids still wear Led Zeppelin shirts to signal rebelliousness.
I believe we’re viewing different parts of a larger phenomenon – a period of cultural stasis largely connected to be dominance of a single age cohort, in this case, the baby boomers.
You think people get angry when you question space colonization watch the reaction when you tell a Boomer their music wasn’t really that good. Whew!
I think when there aren’t people around to rebel / defend the 1950’s (and the justification for America’s preeminence in the type of science fiction you’re alluding to: “technology, trade, and interdependance will create peace and prosperity for all”), when people have no memory of America being a credible world power, let alone the 50’s – by then we’ll have some new mythologies.
Which is to say this particular myth of Progress, the technological monoculture, is a more recent accretion that will be sloughed off earlier than the myth of Progress itself. That is older and may take more time to go away.
Thank you for mentioning Aurora, it’s an extraordinary novel as are many of KSR’s works. He’s a rare SF author who uses many elements of utopian technological “progress” in his narratives while not conforming to the monofuture. New York 2140 is a good example of his worlds being not quite dystopian, not quite utopian but a more complicated, perhaps more realistic mixture not conforming to either convention.
For Millicently: Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Antarctica” can qualify as a novel about the colonization of inner Antarctica. He puts a permanent settlement at the South Pole complete with an underground subculture and even an unauthorized waterslide hidden under the ice. I agree with JMG’s recommendation of “Aurora.” I thought that it was brilliant in many ways but that it “jumped the shark” a bit more than I’d like. (As a former small boat sailor I’d have written the opening scene differently — to wind up with the boat overturned and its masthead stuck in the mucky lake bottom.)
William Gibson punctured the gleaming interstellar future well with his “high tech low life” cyberpunk vision. Low Earth orbit habitats are the domain of the (often unstable) rich, or of squatters. Advanced AI is proscribed and when it manages to survive it gets baroque. Nation states fade away, but instead of the Federation from Star Trek you get feudal corporate rule. Nanotech and biotech are used as weapons by thieves. We didn’t get his future exactly but it resembles reality far more than, say, Larry Niven’s Known Space does.
Globalism was the first big step towards the monofuture…misstep? Anyway, that is doomed when oil price reaches $100/bbl again. Not like that hasn’t already crashed the world economy once, so like obedient monofuturians, we are taking the same path and believing our way into ‘this time will be different’.
I’m actually looking forward to hypercomplexity taking things down. It’s nicer when it takes a while and some effort to get an item you want. Makes you question your need for it in the first place when it is costly and takes some time to arrive. Today things are just too easy in throwaway society. You don’t even need to order things you want; your phone listens and feeds you the ads for things…
Trump isn’t helping with his going “back to the moon and on to Mars” madness either. His opposition is just as bad with their competition for who can promise the most ‘free’ stuff. Both of them spending money we have yet to earn and staying stolidly behind war somewhere at any cost.
I wholeheartedly believe the monofuture needs to be stomped out of existence so people can look around at their realities. There is no stopping the slow decline as energy costs rise. But I view the coming end of throwaway society as opportunity for people who can fix things or make things.
I think a really good marker for the change may be when we start recycling glass bottles with deposits again. That will mean the energy cost of glass has become important again and that the cost of plastic (environmental and energy) has risen enough for people to take note.
I do want the internet though, if we can keep it in a less malignant form – it is and will be quite a boon for most people. Maybe we can order via internet and take delivery at the train station? Is there a short story in that somewhere?
Is it a given that such beliefs crash after they have been proven wrong multiple times? Even the Millerites didn’t all disappear after the Great Disappointment, but splintered into Seventh-Day Adventists, Advent Church members, Bahai, and I’m sure some emigrated to Mormons or other rising churches. Millerites, moreover, were tied to a specific date when things were to happen, and believers in the Monofuture were less so.
Science fiction futures mentioned some milestones, but they have mostly come and gone, and my generation has grown up marking each real year alongside its fictional counterpart – 1997 was the year New York was to be a giant prison in “Escape from New York”; 2015 was the year of “Back to the Future II”, with its floating hoverboards; 2019 the year of “Blade Runner”’s android slaves. Yet if those milestones had destroyed our culture’s belief in the Monoculture, you wouldn’t be writing about it now.
I would suggest two things: firstly, that Tomorrowland will continue to live in our collective imagination, but as the decades pass it will grow increasingly unmoored from real expectations, becoming even more the equivalent of Heaven for believers, and a familiar fantasy universe like Narnia for the rest of us.
Secondly, I would propose that various subcultures are diverting their belief in progress into other areas, but keeping the belief intact. Adherents of the “woke” subculture, for example, seem to strongly believe in progress – that the story of humankind is that of brave gender-nonconformists who blazed the trail, that they stand on the cusp of a quantum leap in the evolution of human history and are the vanguard of the new tomorrow, that their redefinitions free humans from their pesky limitations, and so on. It has all the same claims, but uses sexual and subcultural fetishes as the vehicle, rather than technological inventions or religious awakening.
JMG: You write, “The quality of life for a majority of people in the US and a good many other industrial countries has been moving raggedly but remorselessly downhill since the 1970s and shows no sign of changing direction.”
I have been saying this to certain of my friends for several years now. I point out that in the 1950s my father, a non-graduate, on his sole income, supported a wife and two children and took us all on a 2-week holiday to the coast every year. At the same time, during the 1950s and 1960s he paid off a 20-year mortgage on a house in the London suburbs. I ask them how their family was supported when they were young. They “don’t remember”. I ask how many beggars and homeless people they saw on the streets of London during the 1970s. They say, “Oh they were there all right, you just didn’t see them.” One says, “But the Economist has just published statistics that show . . . . .” In other words, they believe statistics rather than their own experience.
Since they do apparently believe statistics, can anybody here point me in the direction of some statistics, from a source that they can’t dismiss as some sort of fringe fabrication, that show unequivocally that the quality of life at least in the UK has indeed been declining since the 1970s? I know it is a forlorn hope that it will make them change their minds, but at least I will have done all I can. (And apparently I am fortunate in having friends I can discuss such matters with without it degenerating into a shouting match. At least they aren’t insisting that life is getting better!)
Let’s not forget that Kim Stanley Robinson also wrote the Red/Green/Blue Mars trilogy, about the colonization and terraforming of Mars. I found it utterly unengaging, full of facile techno-handwaving and one-dimensional characters. Seemed like it was written in a hurry or something.
Maybe I should give ‘Aurora’ a try…
I’m not JMG, but—
CSICOP= Committee (fot) Scientific Investigation (of) Claims Of (the) Paranormal. They were a hard-line atheist group. Theyhad their own book publishing house, Prometheus Press.
“What sequence of events will deliver that awkward but inescapable lesson to believers in the Monofuture is an interesting question; all things considered, though, I don’t think we’ll have to wait indefinitely to find out.”
It may be longer that we think. TPTB have managed to kick the can down the road much longer than I ever thought possible. And despite the clear evidence of degradation on so many levels all around us, we seem to just keep on muddling along. This could continue for a long time. I just read — again! — an article touting a recent breakthrough in fusion power that could mean it will be commercially viable in — you guessed it — 20 years! And then the comments section contained the usual piling on about cold fusion being the wave of the future delivering virtually limitless clean power for next to nothing. These dreams die hard.
On the other hand, there are those black swans… an assassination, another financial catastrophe, a major natural disaster, a military coup in a major western democracy… A lot can happen. But the trend line is clear.
I think that one of the reasons the Monofuture has been so durable is that it supports and enhances most of the economic and financial rackets that make up the bulk of our economy. I heard an excellent example the other day as friend agonized over the decision to get a knee replacement. They had done some research which unearthed the tidbit that modern knee replacements only last for about 20 years and doing a second one is much more difficult. When they discussed this with the doctor and proposed pursuing other methods of joint rehabilitation and pain relief because they were only in their late 50’s the doctor replied, ” Just think of the advanced new technologies and treatments they will have in 20 years. Of course the doctor made money doing the surgery now.
As a youngster I devoured science fiction. Given I’m in my 70s, that would be the SF of the ’50s and ’60s. Great decades full of great writers with stimulating ideas. But eventually I came to realize that the future was invariably socialist. Nobody seemed to have an actual job except asteroid miners and bar girls. The rest cruised round on the government payroll spending an endless supply of credits. At which point I ditched SF and got more into Limits To Growth, conservation, etc.
Having said that, I believe we are at a unique point in history. If the techno-future is to happen, it will happen now. I am reminded of a remark by someone that the European environment many of us admire so much, with graceful human-scale architecture, was a product of very unequal times, when the local lord had everything and could afford to build fabulous structures because he extracted rent from the peasants.
We are the same now, when we have such a concentration of wealth in the 1% that they can make things happen on a scale unimaginable before, and if they are tech-happy, which they seem to be, they will supply the investment needed to make the techno future happen in one last glorious blast before we slide back necessarily into sustainable living for everyone.
Regarding your discussions of the techno-utopian MonoFuture, and your disdain for the original “Star Trek” series (which I loved as a kid, but cooled on as I grew older), it is interesting and perhaps ironic to note that the almost universally most highly-rated episode of ST: The Original Series was “City on the Edge of Forever”, which is set in our present-day past rather than our future (or the series’ present).
That was the episode in which Kirk and Spock travel to 1930s New York City, and Kirk saves social worker Edith Keeler from dying in a street accident, thereby inadvertently leading to a German victory in World War II that changes the course of human history (and aborting the space-traveling MonoFuture that according to the series would otherwise have occurred).
Esteemed Archdruid, you may be mildly amused, or perhaps even greatly surprised, that such a technogeek publication as Gizmodo just yesterday published a long and detailed piece titled “Humans Will Never Colonize Mars”; see:
Cracks in the armor of the Monofuture are showing…
I have always tended to think of CSICOP more as “The Committee for Kneejerk Denialism of Claims of the Paranormal”, myself.
In fairness to “Star Trek” …
I was setting up a tabletop RPG last November that took place in the Star Trek universe that took place in the timeline just after the event of the original series. In the process, I was putting together a more or less canonical timeline of events and went back an watched several episodes of the original series. In the process I learned something.
The “canon” of the Star Trek universe is greatly underdetermined by the original show. Even “the Federation” never gets mentioned until late in the first season. The episodes seem more like an anthology show like “The Twilight Zone” but with a constant cast and setting. The overarching theme, though, was the idea of people of all races and nationalities working together (even non-human aliens!) in a quasi-military that saw violence as a last resort. Star Trek’s theme of progress was towards a cooperative egalitarian society working towards non-violent solutions. The space ships and interplanetary colonization were merely the trappings. Much of the fan base, IMHO, mistook the trappings for the theme. This analysis does not necessarily apply to later iterations of Trek.
Then again, maybe interstellar travel is more realistic than an egalitarian society.
I’v been reading debates about the future of computing and the fascinating thing is you could set The Shoggoth Concherto in a computer science programme and have exactly the same plot. The cloud is the shiny new thing and mainframes are the sturdy old thing that works. There are complexities to it and each definitely does some things better, but the parallels are suprising.
Supporters of the cloud are all about the new, the modern, and the flexible. They basically use all the arguments proponents of the car (especially the Uber and self-driving variety) use against public transport. It’s also an openly throwaway culture. They advocate treating servers as ‘cattle not pets’, which is presumably where your story of truckloads of hard drives being delivered to datacentres comes from. They also dismiss mainframes as old fashioned, unreliable, ‘legacy systems’.
Mainframe supporters point out that they are incredibly fast and reliable. They are highly efficient, possibly using as little as 12% the energy of equivalent servers. They’re also tough. An earthquake in Japan destroyed all the regular servers in a datacentre, while the mainframe just fell on its side and kept going. One term I thought you’d particularly like is that mainframes can run for 30 or 40 years because they aren’t being ‘destabilised by upgrades’. One commentator became so frustrated with new computer projects failing, he redefined legacy systems as ‘any computer that is plugged in and working’.
There’s a didactic novel called The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford, about how to run an IT department. It’s a good book, I liked it and it did convince me there is a lot of value in the devops method of organisation (although a couple of computer programmers I asked about it cast doubt on even that and claimed that waterfall is still the best way). If you know the Vanguard Method the book also contains a few howlers you’ll recognise as massive mistakes. But the authors come down solely and unquestioningly on the side of the cloud. It really made me want to read a riposte where someone flies the flag for big iron.
On th subject of computers, utopias and science fiction, have you heard of Eden Medina’s book Cybernetic Revolutionaries? It’s the true story of the attempt to build a proto-internet – Project Cybersyn – in Allende’s Chile. I could give multiple reasons, both as a management consultant and a socialist, why it was never going to work. But the sheer scale of it, the vision and ambition, puts most science fiction to shame.
Dammit smart guy!
I have to agree that you are right. grrrrrr. grrrr.
This article will help me in my reconsidering of the values I apply to my life -time. So many years spent doing little more than existing while my mind floated around in abstract imagination. Happiness fades as the gulf between imagination and reality grows
It is not an easy addition to kick, but I work toward being mentally present in the now.
The images you juxtaposed to emphasize are an excellent choice
Appreciate much your sagacity. Thank you.
@ David, by the lake
My word of the year has been ‘disensus’. We need a lot of different folk working towards their own idea of the future. The future is challenging enough that it will take ‘all hands on deck’ in order to meet it properly, and you can never tell where the next really good idea is going to come from.
I never tried reading them, because I bounced right off that back-of-book descriptions! I may have tried reading Red Mars at one point, but didn’t get too far into it if I did.
I’m planning to read Aurora at some point, but am going to read New York 2140 first.
There’s another part of the mono-future: everyone always believes whatever is fashionable in upper-class liberal circles. Why do you never read about a world where we’ve achieved the singularity and everyone, without exception, has become a Southern Baptist?
On a different note, I’m reading a book on the history of the internet, and find it fascinating that home computers first became a thing with the upper classes in 1977. This is shortly before the massive early 1980s shift, and so I wonder if there’s a connection. Given how weird many people get online, and the weird way they seem to mess with my own head, I suspect there’s something about computers which make them totally mess with the human psyche.
It thus may be that the myth of progress will hold out until people get forced offline, and then fade out as human thinking shifts back to a more normal condition.
Hi JMG, Brilliant! “nuff said.”
The Moon and Mars are often bracketed together as future destinations, but they are very different. I’m a space buff, yet for a long time now I’ve not been at all attracted to the idea of colonizing Mars, whereas the idea of a Moon base has a magical fascination for me. Also, I suspect that it has a fairly good chance of happening, in the time-window before the gradient of the Long Descent gets too steep. The Moon is two orders of magnitude closer than Mars – and that makes all the difference.
Another thought, if I may. During 2012 I lived in an enormous, hippie, counter cultural community with ties to the 1960’s counterculture. Before December people were open to New Age beliefs. Afterwards there was an odd lull and then, within months, there was a huge influx of angry, vindictive Social Justice ideology. Putting the two together I see that the Social Justice ideology is that filled the void after the implosion of the New Age movement. It is, of course, popular in precisely the same classes that once cleaved to New Age doctrines, and the timing of its rise and the New Age’s fall is very, very tight. This causes me to wonder, with trepidation, what will fill the void left by the Monofuture.
One thing I’ve observed in the canonized version of the Monofuture is that there’s a degree to which the narrative knows it’s going to fail and has built in a fail-safe mechanism to remain viable regardless. All over various futuristic fiction you have the trope of a long tribulation lasting anywhere from a few generations to a few millennia in which the ordinary process of decline and fall takes place and progress resumes somewhere on the other side of the recovery (or brings about the recovery). Even Star Trek has that written into its mythology. As I recall you ran into a screenwriter who wanted to overlay this trope onto Stars Reach (and Stars Reach itself is a deliberate subversion of that piece of the narrative). Even Canticle for Leibowitz, which strikes me as the sort of book that really should be above things like this still ends its thoughtful meditation on religion and historical cycles with a starship taking off to pursue mankind’s future among the Stars while the earth burns beneath it.
There’s a degree then to which the progressive movement has borrowed the tribulation concept from Christian Eschatology prepped itself to defend against its failure by saying “no, this is supposed to happen.”
It seems then that the myth of progress may be with us all the way down this slope and part way up the next one, until the next civilization finds that it has different values and sees the world differently from its ancestors. If the myth of progress already includes a long intermission that fits the facts in the ground, is it likely that people will actually walk away as the dream fails?
Or will someone 300 years from now, looking at the waterlogged relics pulled up from the underwater ruins of Cape Canaveral react the same way Rutilius did when he saw the dream of his world die in Visigoth sacked Rome and say “Amidst failure, it is thy way to hope for prosperity: after the pattern of the heavens losses undergone enrich thee. For flaming stars set only to renew their rising; thou seest the moon wane to wax afresh?“
@Alex — well who knows? The future could be great. People in the technical professions are trained to solve problems, and so they tend to focus on problems. And since many of the problems around us are actually conundrums that can only be dealt with rather than solved, I see a tendency among techies to view our prospects dimly. This is sad. I think what’s needed is some honest discussion about how those problems can be effectively managed so that our outlook doesn’t become self-fulfilling.
@Will J — re “I wish I could understand what happened [in the 1980s], since it seems nearly every part of the mess we’re in ties back to whatever happened in that decade.”
If not earlier. I used to think that it all started with the JFK assassination. Then I realized that the JFK assassination was just a symptom of a process that was already underway. I could make a case that it started with Adam & Eve. But the 1980s did usher in Reaganism and the assault on on the credibility of government, which I think has had seriously deleterious social consequences. But then again, there was Vietnam, a wholly government-run enterprise. So once again, I think the erosion of credibility was once again an ongoing process. But we were at a critical juncture then — just as we were in 2001 and 2008 — where a slight breath of air in one direction or the other could have resulted in a hugely different outcome.
@David, by the lake — re “To me human freedom necessitates a broad spectrum of manifestation rather than conformity.”
I agree up to a point. But… humans are social creatures and different societies have developed different conventions by which the needs of their members are met. It’s not hard for me to think of cases where these conventions clash. To pick on a hot-button topic these days, the principle of Sharia Law in Muslim societies as opposed to the separation of church and state in the US comes to mind. I don’t see any way to reconcile these two ways of organizing societies to the satisfaction of both sides. So while human freedom implies variability, there limits to to which variations that are destructive to the effective functioning of societies can be tolerated. I’m thinking the important questions revolve around where the appropriate balance lies, and who gets to decide.
[off-topic but to answer a question posed last week, if I may]
Juan Pablo, re: your comment at the end of last week’s cycle. I have an electronic version (PDF) of the Master Conserver file. You may email me at the gmail account that uses my user name (temporaryreality). I don’t use that account for much, so please mention here that you’ve sent me something and I’ll be sure to check it.
I did give a copy of the file to David Trammel for posting on the Green Wizards site, but as I’ve neither been able to login with my old credentials nor create a new account, I can’t confirm that it’s there (that’s a hint, to dtrammel – there’s a glitch somewhere!)
JMG – Curious about your thoughts on Marianne Williamson if you’re following the Democratic primaries at all
It just seems so obvious from my perspective that the monoculture of thought is splintering, there’s not really a “main stream” any more. What’s interesting is the homogeneity of thought within the different subcultures, shepherded in by social media echo chambers. That’s one reason I appreciate this forum, there is quite a variety of world views and opinions (well, somewhat) but even more, the fact that commenters can disagree and not blow a gasget at the nerve of somebody else to not hold the same view!
You’ve written quite a bit about apocalyptic thinking in the past year or two. Isnt that one alternative to the Monofutre? Some people seem quite devout in their belief in a firey explosion filled future. Do you think these people also cling to their belief because it’s loosing it’s explanatory power?
I guess I’m not getting my flying car that folds into a briefcase, my jet pack, a robot, or a food replicator in the kitchen. If I can’t believe in The Jetsons what can I believe in?
JMG – he was Robin Scott Wilson, deceased now for almost 6 years. We miss him a lot. He wrote what I think is one of the best books on fiction writing ever, “Paragons”. In that book he used SF short stories to illustrate different facets of writing: plot, theme, character development, etc. Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the writers featured.
That book sure helped me, and then I also had the benefit of his red pencil on some of my writings. He must have used up a whole box of those pencils on me! And yes, it was around about the early 80s that he lost interest in reading SF. He wrote a few SF short stories after that time, but that was all.
David BTL – I think that the believers in Progress will convince themselves that once Trump is gone, all will resume as before. So that means we have most likely at least 6 years for them to wait out Trump’s second term and then a year or so (or maybe longer) for them to realize that whatever Progressive candidate they elected is not going to be able to bring forth the future they want to see.
Here’s a guy who’s saying, in a partisan way, more or less what JMG has been saying:
I myself do not think E. Warren is crazy. The system she works so well is crazy. The distinction escaped Mr. McCain. Sanders I don’t know enough about to speculate on his sanity except that anybody wanting to be U.S. president must be crazy!
An interesting essay and I agree with the gist but I’m not so sure the crossover between occultism and science fiction is as dead as you say. I don’t read much modern science fiction, but, as you may be aware, the most prestigious comics writer Alan Moore is very famously an occultist (as incidentally is the comics writer he’s most often compared to, Grant Morrison) and the bulk of his work has been various sorts of science fiction, such as Watchmen which is arguably one of the most influential science fiction novels ever! Also it’s worth noting that the one modern science fiction writer I do devour, Neal Stephenson, has written quite a bit about the connection between the occult and science in his Baroque cycle trilogy
I remember you mentioning crocodiles up north somewhere distinctly un-tropical these days … do we have anything showing humans previously living in Antarctica?
This might be the most obvious thing ever, but it took me a long time to realize it.
The only reason visions like The Monofuture make sense to people is that when you imagine that kind of future, you also imagine yourself enjoying it. So really, you’re imagining two things at once– Yourself traveling to, say, Mars, in a flying space pod; and yourself being happy. Of course, in real life, there is no reason to think that just because you were traveling to Mars in your own private space pod, you would also be happy. You might be traveling to Mars for a funeral of someone you loved, or to seek expensive medical care that can’t be found on Earth these days, or because it’s the only planet in the solar system that permits people of your faith to openly practice your religion. Then you would be both traveling to Mars and also miserable.
Morevoer, whatever happiness or misery you might be able to experience in your space pod while traveling to Mars is exactly the same sort of happiness or misery– or, what’s likeliest of all, everyday boredom– that you can experience right now, in 2019, wherever you happen to be on present-day Earth.
A few years ago I got back in touch with an old friend who I’d lost track of. Over the course of the brief conversation, it became clear that he’d gone way off the deep end as a devotee of Progress and the Monofuture, exactly as you describe. It was clear that his experience was that of the devout religious convert, and it was genuinely bizarre. New Atheism was still a going concern, and he’d clearly drunk deep of it and now used such phrases as “a True Son of Science” to describe himself. (Seriously, he said that.) Somehow space colonization came up, and he went on at some length about his belief that we would soon upload our minds into robot bodies, and use these to explore the Cosmos. At one point he said, and this is an exact quote, “I want to stand in an alien desert, in a body that feels like a real body!”
Now, this friend had, as far as I know, left Western Pennsylvania exactly twice in his life, on brief vacations to other parts of the United States. It apparently did not occur to him, as he was saying this, that if he wanted to, he could get in his car, drive for about two days, and find himself in the to-him very alien deserts of Utah or New Mexico, in a body guaranteed to feel exactly like a real body. I did not point this out, though, as it was clear that he’d gone insane and “Back away slowly” was my best way out of the conversation.
I always wondered what “U.S.S.” was supposed to mean in a Star Trek context. Futurama parodied it beautifully. In that show, people from earth are called “Earthicans” and their flag is an American flag with a picture of the earth instead of the 50 stars.
Random thoughts, in no particular order:
Yes, I saw at the Dem debate last night 2-3 candidates, (can’t remember which ones) said something akin to “We’ll just INVENT our way out of economic hardship! We’ll just…. do TECHNOLOGY to put everyone to work at new good paying jobs” ((Oh for crying out loud face palm)).
OTOH: I really enjoyed Marianne Williamson. She doesn’t have a snow-ball’s chance, but she’s brave enough to blurt out things that the other candidates won’t dare say point blank or they didn’t think of it; and her speech / delivery is well thought out and articulate. She is a positive addition to the conversation at least.
Mayor Pete is also very well spoken and with some sound ideas.
As for the tommorrow-land monofuture: I’ve never really gotten on board that monorail, either in fantasy/fiction or in hopes for real life. I’ve always been more fond of dystopian future stories, even apocalyptic ones. Although, if apocalyptic – set way AFTER the death and destruction if there is any – I like the scavenging/ salvaging stories of current knowledge mixed with low-tech more primitive or medieval lifestyles. There is something more personal and human-scale about them. & they always seem to feature some familiar or just beautiful old buildings or rustic/ settings of decay / nature taking back her own. Shiny steel tubes? No Thank You.
But I would have sworn it was the Rah-Rah-Reagan-80’s that was the height of “our” (in quotation marks because our should be qualified. Our means some of us. it wasn’t bright or better for all of us) economic and techno- wizardry “Bright Future”. Why the 1970’s?
@Oilman: I took my Dewalt orbital sander to Home Depot today to get a replacement velcro pad. The HD sales lady looked at me like I had 3 heads and said “Um, we don’t sell parts. You have to order that ONLINE”. I do remember when to get something like that – you’d have to bring it back to the store and they would order it from their manufacturer and hold it for you. You’d then pick it up in a week or so. If we go back to to that older time process. – I’ll be fine, (finally! LOL) I’ve yet to be comfortable with Amazon ordering. 🙁
The Monofuture seems to ignore personal mastery. Replicators of one kind or another provide meals and consumer goods. Where are the chefs cooking from scratch or the woodworkers lovingly crafting a chessboard? Better a future with impressive humans than impressive machines. People who can adjust their body temperature without benefit of heating or air conditioning. People who can telepathically commune with their friends even if air travel is no longer feasible. Herbs once again replacing their inadequate synthetic counterparts.
The so-called Dark Ages (tip of the hat to Paul Rosenberg) were actually liberating for many people; the foot of the Western Roman Empire was finally off their necks. It may be that our “early-Medieval” descendants will combine magic with other disciplines to create an advanced technology, a Golden Age of Psionics, but one not imagined by the Monofuture.
Many of us will miss any number of features of our current world–particularly if we live in a favored enclave–but hat’s no reason why our superbly fit great grandchildren, happily daring each other to scale a cliff, would miss any of it. They won’t be the fleeing emigrants to a strange new world; they will be the ones calling it home.
The fly in the ointment will be the future condition of the environment. Insects populations are collapsing (40% in Europe), to mention just one example. The carrying capacity of the earth in 2100 may be less than one billion.
But if we’re going to have fun with colonization scenarios, why not underwater settlements as a response to rising seas? And I hear the Venusian atmosphere has a sweet spot, temperature wise, that would be great for floating cities. 🙂
Already, many comments thank you for mentioning Aurora by KSR. I read it a few years ago – I believe on your recommendation – and it has entered my “10 Favorite” list.
Also, thanks for the additional mentions of sci-fi novels.
One of my nephews believes going to the Moon will be great and talks about living underground. He is not amused at my recommendation to try living underground on Earth to see if he likes it. In fact, why not just live underground on Earth and *pretend* you’re on the Moon?? But I can’t press the point too much without losing contact with much of my family, so I usually just shut up.
Alex, I’ve been seeing, and hearing about, that sort of thing more and more recently. That’s one of the reasons I expect faith in the Monofuture to crash into a planetoid sometime soon, leaving debris everywhere and few survivors…
Violet, and yet Trump’s fans are thrilled by his enthusiasm for repeating the Moon landing. I note with some amusement that the Artemis spacecraft that will be going there is basically an enlarged and updated Apollo capsule — so much for exciting new technologies! I suspect that the Trump era will at most be a transitional stage in the end of the Monofuture. (Though it occurs to me that the Artemis moon landing may be the thing that does it; okay, we’ve gone back to the moon and put up another flag there…so what?)
Mister N, the entire focus on Star Trek as a source of future imagery is one of the things that makes me shake my head about the whole business:
Mitch, that’s a good place to be, since we really, truly don’t know what the future will be…
Will, funny! As for the peak oil post, yes, it’s in process.
David, fascinating. I’ve never had that kind of conversation with a committed globalist of the idealistic variety — the ones I’ve talked to have all insisted that it’s going to happen, like it or not, and the conversation never gets to whether it’s a good thing.
Tim, thanks for this!
Darrell, it takes work, doesn’t it? Glad you like the encyclopedia!
Jasmine, the official meaning was Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims Of the Paranormal. They did next to no scientific investigation, though, and people who weren’t on their atheist-materialist bandwagon soon took to calling them the Committee for Spreading Innuedoes about Claims Of the Paranormal…
Pygmycory, you’d think that they’d figure that out, wouldn’t you? But it’s the same logic that keeps people in poverty buying lottery tickets, even though they can be statistically certain that they’re going to spend more than they get back: the fantasy of sudden wealth is too enticing to ignore.
Packshaud, that’s certainly one possibility for the thing that could do it.
Steven, fair enough! That was after my time, in media terms.
Andrew, too funny. I find it entertaining to point out to such people that economic globalization has happened before, that it’s always followed by an era of renewed localization and protectionism, and by refusing even to consider that possibility they risk being blindsided by a Godzilla-sized black swan. “You’re gambling the survival of this company on a set of unverifiable assumptions about the future!” tends to rock them back on their heels…
KevPilot, quote the Democratic candidates at them, unedited. Then bring up the impact various proposals will have on their tax bills…
A very interesting thought. Michio Kaku still believes in the Monofuture. At any rate, he created his own version of it, in his books. Have you read any of them? I wonder.
I also wonder if Feminism has any future? For, if anything, the Third World Peoples, coming to the West, are actually far more patriarchical than we are. Moreover, there is, of course, in addition to Islamic Fundamentalism, Christian Fundamentalism. And, many more are becoming Fundamentalists now.
It’s not bleach on Mars , but perchlorate. A major component of solid rocket propellant. That makes it all reasonable, doesn’t it?
I think the closest analogue to what the real monofuture might be like is the movie “Idiocracy.” A lot of images from it look like the ones you posted above — not “the dream” photos, but “the reality” ones.
There is a yard sign aimed at the salary class liberal homeowner demographic that says:
WE BELIEVE / BLACK LIVES MATTER / NO HUMAN IS ILLEGAL / LOVE IS LOVE / Women’s Rights Are Human Rights / SCIENCE IS REAL / WATER IS LIFE / Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere
I did a discursive meditation on it this morning. It reads a bit like an invocation, doesn’t it? It is supposed to signal virtue, stating the belief of all the residents of an upper middle class McMiniMansion believe in the Black Lives Matter movement, yet it’s funny how I’ve only seen this sign and others like it in neighborhoods that are 95% white (the other 5% is largely Asian). No human is illegal? That part of the invocation begs for a reduction in living circumstances, perhaps in a future, underfunded retirement home, where one’s neighbor in the next bed is an easily-triggered yet undiscovered serial rapist/murderer. But that person will never be illegal, because the law will overlook their crimes by sheer luck until the day they die. I could go on to lambast the remaining lines of the sign but I won’t. Skipping to the end, the statement Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere struck me as a sort of magical seal. Like when any given McResistance edgedweeb cries “So mote it be!”, but worse. The last thing they want to do is summon Justice in the Libra/Tarot trump sense of the term, because the sooner they do, the swifter and harsher their comeuppance will arrive. Not the rosy future they signed up for…
The hard radiation of space thing… oh boy that is one that people do not like to hear.
It is funny, if you drill down on people that work with space travel in practice and theory – this is the one area that they do not really talk about too much. They know it is one of the big ‘Achilles heels’ to the whole problem. It has been worked on for decades with little progress. Either they use some theoretical medical treatment that would age people at a phenomenal pace to avoid any cancers sitting around for too long, or they need thousands of tons of solid lead shielding that makes the entire thing uneconomical.
They would never say this out loud to the public for fear of losing funding.
Folk saw people land on the moon a few times and figured that it is a simple feat. It set the precedent that space travel is logical. And yet look into the details and you realize that the trips was carefully calculated to be done as quick as possible outside of the magnetic fields – combined with dumb luck that the sun didn’t blow off a large solar flair and fry them all. Even then most of those that came back from the moon had heavy health issues (particularly with vision) for the rest of their lives – they were out there for less than a week! Some are proposing months or years out there. Good luck with that!
It is thought that the one major difference between Earth and Mars was the magnetic field, without it, we would not be here.
Dear Steve T.,
May I ask, what was it like listening to that person go on and on about that? In no way do I wish to be cruel, but reading your account I admit that laughed quite a bit at the utter absurdity. Thinking on it a little more, I imagine that it may have been terrifying, saddening, or what have you, and I cannot tell from your account. For that reason I’m curious how you’s describe this man’s energy and vibe? How did you feel being around someone spouting such sentiments?
BTW, in a brilliant and surprising lecture at the Reno (was it Reno?) Worldcon, Lois McMaster Bujold (after trying to write a genuine romance in an sf or fantasy (depending on how you look at it) world, which morphed into something more serious, noted “Romances are about getting the next generation born. Mysteries are about justice. Science fiction is about political agency.”
I have not seen one work of genre fiction that contradicts this. Mysteries which end in despair are considered “noir”, a separate category all by itself. The boy-meets-girl, girl-prefers-to-be single may be dismissed as “chick lit” or praised as “feminist”, but it is, as you noted, not a romance. However, s/f allows the protagonists to end in failure, or in the realization that they went down the wrong road with the best of intentions.
Many of the best writers use space travel etc as a background for exploring deeper issues – in Lois’ case, a lot of biological issues. Though the raging biophobia of her dome-bred heroine Cordelia, and her other habitat-bred characters, comes across clearly and is actually a logical development of their milieu, Her funniest and nastiest example of that biophobia is Horrible Helga, a minor bureaucrat in her novel Ethan of Athos. (Forgive me if I digress.) Ethan is the one who rescues a lab-bred (by an empire adept in biological tampering and warfare that you do not want to tangle with) telepath who considers himself a monster, “created piecemeal from 16 different people.” Ethan tells him everybody is so created; they’re called ancestors, and at the runaway lab rat’s heartfelt cry “What am I, then?” answers “You have free will, because you defied your creators. Therefore you are a child of God the Father … and my brother.”
Do NOT be fooled by the space opera trappings, my friends!
An observation hearkening back to last week’s open post, but still relevant.
The Spengler link said that 2019 was equivalent to roughly 108 BC which seemed wrong to several people including me. I think the more logical thing to do would be to treat 1914 = 117 AD, the peak of the Roman Empire under Trajan. That’s technically when it started to fall, but it wasn’t really *noticeable* until after the Severan dynasty
If 1914 = 117 AD, that puts us in 222 AD now… not long before the Crisis of the Third Century / Year of the Six Emperors, which would be roughly equivalent to 2035 in our timeline. Curiously, 2035 is also the year I peg for the culminative oil crisis, and may well be the year the straw breaks the camel’s back on the Monofuture.
@Twin Ruler, the problem with feminism is that it has become a fairly meaningless word – combine that with the number of self-professed male feminists who use their purported ideology as a reproductive strategy (It actually isn’t uncommon, among animals, for some males to pose as females in order to sneak up on them one way or another), and yeah, I think capital-F Feminism is dead, but feminist reforms will stick around. Although, regardless of what you or I think about it, perhaps societies which restrict the rights of their women are more successful and will win out.
Feminism means “Women should have equal civil rights and marital rape should be illegal”, “abort all male fetuses except for a few which will be used to further the species until technology is sufficiently advanced”, and everything in between.
Meanwhile, say you aren’t a feminist and a certain type of person will say “So you want to make rape legal as long as she’s your private property”. It is all very stupid and there’s a reason most men and women don’t identify as feminists.
Frack it all, now I want to read an anthology about colonization attempts in the remote reaches of the world. These “Pretend Colonies” would have been created to test the viability of future Mars outposts but what if they stuck around decades after any space program anywhere even exists? Frack it all, now I want to write the Space Colony: Earth anthology. Maybe even throw in some of that groovy alternate future goodness.
“On the far distant sands of Taklamakan, the psychic pilgrims battled the Ascended Astromaths…”
Exactly. In terms strategic risk management, I’d call it hedging. Many moons ago, shortly after I was first hired onto the utility I worked at before the municipal I’m at now, I had a brief conversation with the COO of the holding company. I was trying to make a point about allowing the various operating companies to pursue different strategies, whereas he was all about getting everyone on board the same train, as it were. So I told a story and asked a question. “Let’s say you’re at war and you want to bomb a target. Do you load ten bombs into one giant plane or do you load one bomb each in ten different planes that take different routes to the target?” He looked right at me and said, “The one plane, course. It is far more cost efficient.”
Re human freedom, etc.
My solution is to not try to reconcile them. That is why the vehicle of the functional nation-state is so very important—it allows a people to control their political and economic destiny by managing the extent to which they interact (or don’t) with others. Nations who are predicated on the values of the Enlightenment can have their space. Nations who build their society around Sharia law can have theirs. The Confucians can have theirs. The Buddhists can have theirs. And so forth. This goes back to the principle of minding one’s own business and not trying to insist that others adopt our values. Included in all of this, of course, is the underlying principle of self-determination, which would say that a people have the right to carve out their own nation-state in order to pursue their own course (e.g. Scotland, Quebec, Catalonia, the Confederacy, South Sudan, Ireland, India, etc). My globalist friend, to whom I referred, saw this vision as a “fragmented humanity” and I saw it as the highest expression of human freedom.
Re Trump and post-Trump
No doubt! Assuredly, that assumption of resumption-of-normalcy is why the Democrats are likely going to end up picking the embodiment of the status quo ante, namely Biden. (Not that any of the others’ plans are workable, of course. We need a deconstructionist Democratic populist. Where we’d get one, I have no idea.)
Futurist and general weird things author Robert Anton Wilson did a wonderful send up of CSICOP in his historical Illuminati series–unfortunately never completed. One of his 18th century characters sees a meteor fall and reports it to the authorities. They dismiss his report for a number of reasons, including the fact that his valet, also a witness, is Catholic and obviously riddled with superstition. Wilson also described a CSICOP panal in operation in one of his non-fiction works–the description was pretty funny, it may have been in _The New Inquisition: Irrational Rationalism and the Citadel of Science_. Wilson himself was radicalized in regard to automatic belief in science by a couple of events–one was having been infected by polio as a child and successfully treated by the unconventional Sister Kenny method, another was accidentally witnessing the burning of the works of Wilhelm Reich by agents of the US government. He was also deeply skeptical of the treatment of Dr. Timothy Leary and the criminalization of LSD.
You’ve said before that you have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to visuals. May I gently remind the Archdruid? “By names and images,” says the Neophyte ritual of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, “are all powers awakened and reawakened.” The Picatrix, which you translated, goes even farther, and indicates that timing-plus-image/sculpture in the correct colors/materials, introduces lasting and potent magical effects. Yet most of the 19th through 21st century occult literature that I’ve read has a sort of picture-shaped hole in it when it comes to the power of visual effects upon consciousness, almost as though occult education had become bifurcated at the Reformation or at the French Revolution, and we had forgotten the power pictures to affect us, or to effect social change.
Indeed, the Monofuture you describe is largely fueled not by the //contents// of the sci-fi magazines of your youth, but their //covers// — forever seen and recollected by millions who never read the pulp fiction inside, followed by movies of ever-increasing special effects budgets (and worse and worse plots). Lurid colors, amazing technology, and a glorious celebration of the stars through whom this cosmic power was to be attained — the fusion of a sun transferred to human transportation, the speed of light surpassed by the influence of the cosmic ray! Every magazine cover and every movie poster shouts To The City And To The World the story of the Monofuture you explore here. Denigrated and abused, desperate artists produced pieces on commission for occultists of spacecraft and space stations, worked to deadlines, made a pittance for each piece of art… and transformed the world.
The combination of names = “flying cars” and images = “look at this vehicle floating through the city, which is on a wheel space-station, in outer space!” has an enchanting effect. The vast, gleaming cities, the orbital platforms, the triangular wedges of the imperial space fleet traveling above alien worlds, imposing dominance over all life in the galaxy, the plucky rebellion’s cruiser speeding in straight lines through hyperspace in exactly the way that bricks don’t…
I mean this “enchanting effect” literally. My own survey of 20th century and early 21st century occult literature (there’s a broad catalog of it visible, not 10 paces from my desk) reveals that the vast majority of occultists very strongly believe in the power of words and gestures to effect change through ritual. Certainly it does. Then there’s various forms of hoodoo… Bags of herbs and choice stones, suitable crystals, and even candles of wondrous hues have their place… but scarcely a paragraph in 60-100 books is ever devoted to the power of image, apart from the occasional Chaos Magic treatment of emblem-magic as found in the technique they call sigils (where it receives select and special treatment).
And yet, if we look around — the whole vast edifice of modern society runs on image magic: through the use of advertising, through the use of memes (name and image combined in a particularly powerful structure), through blockbuster films curated to take advantage of the zeitgeist of the moment (or really, a moment imagined 10-15 months in advance through focus groups, market polling and other tools [multi-billion-dollar movies produced without a single astrology consult? A single Tarot card pull? I doubt it]. If a society’s magic and occultism contains only the elements of discarded spiritual-technology, then the VERY SPECIFIC HOLE in modern occultism, the lack of attention to image-magic, points to an almost-weaponized used to craft both a specific and desired image of the future; and the consequences of failing to reach it. It’s almost like apocalypse and Monofuture fit together like St. Peter’s pearly gates and the Hell Mouth of a medieval mystery play. It’s almost like… names and images awaken and reawaken particular powers?
At some point, the right image [flying car] was produced at the exact right moment [1923? 1927? I hardly know] and the right kid saw it at the right moment in his own life. Forever did it dominate his destiny. Culturally, we’ve been producing and reproducing that moment where image and name awaken and reawaken all powers, through cult movies shown at midnight before costumed audiences, through elegantly-timed premieres, through cons and cosplay, through celebrations of TV shows twenty and thirty years old, through marathon parties for favorite nerd shows… again and again, all powers awakened and reawakened, not by words but my images and names.
And thus does the Monofuture come to be.
To craft a different future, we’re going to have to paint a new picture — right time, right place, right content — and craft a new direction. Possibly several, although I suspect that any given moment in time can have only a few operative Monofutures — many of the world’s mystical traditions seem to be rooted in the idea of training humans to think about more than two options at the same time, which suggests that thinking about more than one future at a time, is harder than it looks.
The Monofuture may still be able to enthrall faith-based technotopians, but a heck of a lot of people I interact with have now developed a level of immunity that was rare just five years ago. Articles abound that question the whole up,up, and away destiny we were promised. Of course there are also endless apologies written to masque the undeniable stench of putrefaction emanating from failed expectations, but recently even those often have the tone of denying an all-too-obvious truth. The article “Globalization Isn’t Dying, It’s Just Evolving” is a classic of the sort. The authors could not even stop themselves form inserting an oversimplifying “just” in the title. The accompanying cherry-picked charts are insulting to rationality, but so is the Progressive myth they are trying to somehow (anyhow) keep propped up.
Desperation seems to have settled in for the long haul. The hollow husks we call politicians can no longer sell their own cynical allegiance to the failed fix-alls they peddle. Any assurance of our bright, shiny future inspires eye-rolls from half the listeners, and Pavlovian applause from the other half. How long will a clueless, entitled minority be able to compel loyalty to their mythic future that will never arrive but will steal from the actual future we live through? I wonder if the inheritors of Western Civilization will be as charitable as Gandhi was when they are asked what they think of it from their view from the future it helped create.
Glenn, delighted to hear it. With regard to The Glass Bead Game, I wouldn’t recommend that as anybody’s first exposure to Hesse; start with Demian and then maybe Steppenwolf so you have a chance to get used to his style.
Nothing Special, an interesting hypothesis! I’ll do some poking around and see how it works in practice.
Josh, he’s a brilliant author when he’s at his best, and worth reading even when he’s not — though I admit I wondered about those skyscrapers with their flooded bases, the structural steel holding them up seemingly immune to the effects of salt water on steel…
Isaac, the rise of William Gibson and the cyberpunk subgenre more broadly was the point at which new science fiction started to bore the bejesus out of me. You’re right that it was realistic — too much so. I lived in inner city Seattle when Neuromancer came out, and if you swapped out the high-tech gizmos for their real equivalents, it could have been set within a two mile radius of the grubby little studio where Sara and I lived. My take is that Gibson kept the gosh-wow fantasy of limitless technology but ditched the ability to speculate in any other way, producing a rehash of 1980s culture — Japanese techno-dominance, end-stage Cold War culture, even the fad for Rastafarian music, for Pete’s sake — with flashier technogimmicks.
Oilman, I ain’t arguing — and you should write that story!
Brian, the Millerites are actually a great example. Before the Great Disappointment they were a mass movement with a very large presence among the well-educated and influential; afterwards, they spent two generations as a tiny fringe cult, and then slowly grew into a cluster of small, quiet denominations with next to no influence on anyone or anything outside the doors of their Kingdom Halls. I could very easily see believers in the Monofuture going the same way: a century from now, you’ve got these quiet, fussy, sparsely populated groups of people still clinging to the hope that someday man will go to the stars. It wouldn’t surprise me completely if one of those fringe groups is called the American Association for the Advancement of Science…
You’re right, though, that for a while at least there will be people redefining progress in various ways to try to cash in on its waning but still significant charisma. It’s the Monofuture as such, though, that I expect to see vanish from the collective conversation, and that won’t happen just because some movie doesn’t come true — it’ll take some other kind of shock. What it will be is an interesting question.
Skygazer, I don’t know of a convenient source of such statistics; if anyone else does, I’d welcome hearing about it.
Sgage, I didn’t like them much either, but every writer has better and worse books.
Helix, oh, it’s always a crapshoot. Shifts in collective thinking don’t happen in a neat linear way, and the timing is almost impossible to predict, which is why so many people who try to ride speculative bubbles to the top and then sell out get caught by the crash. Still, in the immortal words of Ghan-buri-Ghan, “wind is changing…”
Clay, granted! “Don’t worry about the mess we’re making now — they’ll be able to fix it in the future!” Hasn’t worked so well so far…
Martin, maybe so, but the mere fact that someone has a lot of money doesn’t mean that the innovations needed to fulfill their fantasies will show up on demand. So far they haven’t been doing so, in fact…
Alan, interesting. My favorite episode, for what it’s worth, was “The Trouble with Tribbles” — the show stopped trying to Make A Point and simply had some good silly fun. Yes, I know the lyrics to “Nobody Knows The Tribbles I’ve Seen.”
Bryan, I expect to hear shortly that calendars are made with a month of Sundays and a blue ribbon Holstein bore alive two insurance salesmen. If Gizmodo is giving up on Mars colonies, doom — or at least a belated return to sanity — is near at hand.
Chris, fair enough. It was, after all, just another network TV show, no different in any real sense from Daktari or The Man from U.N.C.L.E..
Yorkshire, I’m not at all surprised that the computer world is subject to the same conflicts as the world of music composition! As for a novel from the side of Big Iron, write that puppy — you could have enormous fun with it: say, a situation where two teams from two different corporations or colleges or something were racing to get something done, and the cloud team kept on being frustrated by ordinary happenings the mainframe team surmounted easily. Write it with a dry sense of humor and my guess is it’ll sell like hotcakes.
Zhao, just one of the services I offer. 😉
Will, seriously funny. I look forward to your story about the Baptist Singularity!
Mac, do itashimashite!
Robert, that’s a valid point. I think it’s quite possible that a lunar base might be established and maintained for a while, more or less the way that the International Space Station is, or Amundsen-Scott Base at the South Pole — the US and Russia both have enough experience with manned spacecraft to keep the base staffed and supplied, and China’s getting there rapidly. If the base is buried in regolith, as it should be to shelter the staff from solar radiation and meteors, it could be shut down when the last team has to leave, and hundreds of millennia later it would likely still be more or less intact — and what a discovery for some future civilization that would be!
Violet, that’s fascinating. As for what will follow the Monofuture, well, time to get out there and put some new narratives into circulation…
Eric, that’s an interesting question that I think nobody can yet answer for sure. Historically, though, dreams of that sort do die; Rutilus had his hopes, but the world around him was busy embracing the very different ideology that Augustine of Hippo proposed, in which the City of Man was doomed to destruction and all hope was reoriented toward the City of God.
JBeardsley, she’s potentially the Democrat’s Donald Trump, the outsider figure who attracts the enthusiasm and support none of the usual suspects can summon. As the Democratic Party these days is ironically far less democratic than the GOP, she has a much steeper uphill fight for the nomination — but if the DNC establishment cheats the way it did in 2016, and forces Biden-Harris or Biden-Warren onto the ballot in the teeth of a mass movement in favor of Williamson, it’s quite possible that the Democratic party will not survive, and I think it’s all but certain that if that happens, Trump will win reelection by a landslide.
Isaac, thank you! I’ve tried to make that happen.
Christopher, exactly. The promoters of the Monofuture have been insisting all along that the only alternative to their gizmocentric paradise is apocalyptic mass death. Since their gizmocentric paradise isn’t much of a paradise, a lot of people have stopped worrying and learned to love the apocalypse instead. The point that needs to be gotten into circulation now is that other futures are possible.
Seaweedy, thanks for this! I read some of your dad’s short stories, and enjoyed them; I’ll see if I can find a copy of Paragons. Interesting about the timing; I wonder how many other SF writers dropped out of the genre then.
Your Kittenship, The Other McCain is on top of something that the mainstream hasn’t by and large even begun to grasp, which is that the establishment is losing its grip on our society; the replacement cycle is well under way. I’m not sure whether Williamson has the skills and the ambition to become one of the contending powers of our age of Caesarism, but if she doesn’t, there will be others. (I note with some interest, BTW, that a lot of people in the comment thread were quoting Conan the Cimmerian…)
Guilliam, oh, it’s been trickling back in for a while now, and yes, Moore has been leading that particular charge for a while now. There’s a huge difference, though, from the SF of the 1960s — when more than half of the most prestigious names in the field had some kind of connection to the occult — and now, when you’ve been able to name three figures, two of whom create graphic novels rather than prose.
Warren, not that I know of. Current research suggests that Antarctica was covered in ice long before our distant ancestors first began to expand out of Africa.
Steve, no, it’s not the most obvious thing ever — and it’s a crucial point. Your friend’s fantasy of standing in an alien desert in a robot body differs only in minor details from the traditional Christian hope of standing in heaven in one of the glorified bodies of the elect. The parallels are exact enough that I expect to see a significant number of today’s transhumanist atheists becoming devout fundamentalist Christians within a decade.
Alex, funny. Yeah, it was “United Star Ship.” As a teen, I used to speculate about what the Divided Star Ships looked like.
Caryn, nah, either you misunderstood or I wasn’t clear enough. The 1970s weren’t the peak of rah-rah; they were the peak of diversity in SF’s visions of the future, and many of them were decidedly not rah-rah. The 1980s and 1990s saw the rah-rah cranked up to deafening levels.
Greg, I ain’t arguing. It’s not at all uncommon for population levels after the crash of a civilization to bottom out around 5% of the peak, so a world a century from now with 350 million human beings would be entirely plausible; with Canada and Siberia warm, and Greenland and the Arctic Ocean ice free, it’s not hard to see where one of the major centers of human civilization is likely to spring up in our aftermath, and yes, they’ll have their own sciences and ways of living, which wouldn’t make any sense to us at all.
Stu, hah! Along the same lines, I like encouraging people who say they want to go to Mars to move to a mobile home in a desolate corner of Nevada for a year or two, to get some sense of what it will be like. They don’t seem to appreciate the suggestion much.
Twin Ruler, no, I haven’t read Kaku. I don’t find books by religious fanatics interesting, and Kaku is a fanatic believer in the religion of progress. As for feminism, it depends on what you mean by that polymorphous label; my guess is that in some parts of the world, there’s been a lasting shift in power differentials among the genders, while in others it’s going to turn out to be very temporary. What will happen in the long run? It depends on how the new mutation works out in practice over generations.
@David, by the lake — re “That is why the vehicle of the functional nation-state is so very important—it allows a people to control their political and economic destiny by managing the extent to which they interact (or don’t) with others.”
And so too with individuals in a society.
Your essays are so d*** refeshing to read after days and days of mediocrity. You inspire the h*** out of me. Keep up the great work JMG!
What did the New Agers think was going to happen in Oct 2012? I wasn’t tuned into any of these stuff back then.
Re globalists and the inevitability of globalization
I always found that stance curious. I mean, it seems to be an obvious question: what if a group of people doesn’t want to be assimilated? Isn’t it reasonable to expect that they would resist and employ whatever means they could to avoid that outcome?
My local friends have a term you might enjoy – “Fully automated space communism.” It’s used with both the hope that maybe we’ll get there someday, but also the acknowledgement (and just a hint of mockery) that we’re not headed there right now.
You know, not that dissimilar to the “Kingdom of heaven” or other similar utopian myths. Fully Automated Space Communism is a distant dream, but not something that affects their daily lives.
I tend to think that Earth-life will eventually settle other planets, but in the far distant future, rather than the next 20 years as as the monofuture would have us believe.
We’re in the position of those early lifeforms that crawled out of the friendly sea and found hostile, barren land. It took many millions of years before we had forests, lizards and birds. Maybe humans can work out ways to adapt to space in ten thousand years, rather than ten million. I’m not sure, but clearly our current civilization isn’t getting there. I remain optimistic about the prospects for future technic societies that learn from our mistakes, armed with another couple thousand years of experience.
When I worked in IT, a lot of my colleagues were true believers. People talked about how AI and IoT (the Internet of Things) would lead to so much automation that there won’t be jobs for people in another ten or fifteen years.
It made me wonder if their experience with actual IT had taught them nothing. Thinking of Monofuture infrastructure, all I can think of is how everything would be constantly breaking down, but it’s all so complicated that nobody can ever figure out why. There is a reason why “Have you tried turning it off and then on again?” is the mantra of all IT professionals.
I am slapping my money 💰 down on the table right now to buy the first copy of “The Baptist Singularity.” Name your price. I’ll flip hamburgers if I must.
Will there be shoggoths?
JMG’s info that shoggoths aren’t really slimy has caused me to have to re-evaluate the Shoggothic, as the punch line was originally supposed to be “Reader, I slimed him.” Hmmm.
Gizmodo’s anti-Mars bit might have more to do with the ongoing civil war for the soul of Progress than it does with the death of that ersatz god. I can boil it down into 6 words: Elon Musk is a white man. With that pasty y-chromosome face (which really, why isn’t it in the dustbin of history already? Didn’t Elon get the memo, that the future is female?) on the travel posters for the Red Planet, there was already a decent fraction of progress-heads giving up their tickets. Trump’s White House pushing space exploration just puts icing on that particular cake. Gizmodo has been quite woke for quite a while now, so this bit does not surprise me.
Rephrased: space colonies don’t fly when “colonial” is a dirty word. That’s the white man’s future.
What I am seeing, more and more amongst the salary class, is the redefinition of Progress to mean fancy gadgets and social justice, not space colonies and flying cars. That is, admittedly, a more resilient creed than techno-utopianism. As long as they can still celebrate The First left-handed black lesbian with Down’s Syndrome and a lisp to tie her own shoes on a Tuesday* and fool themselves into thinking the new iPhone is somehow an improvement they can keep the revival rolling.
When I saw that the Artemis project had as its stated goal the First Woman on the Moon, I thought, hey, maybe they’ll call truce. Doesn’t look like it. Fair Luna has been permanently tainted by association with straight white dudes, so the woke crowd will stay remarkably grounded.**
*(while that’s satire, they do get stupidly fine-grained about it when looking for something to crow about.)
**(Or maybe, in my more cynical moments, I reckon it’s because even the most devoted SJW doesn’t want to fly in a spacecraft designed by a diversity hire.)
Here is a long discussion between two very smart guys trying to work out why the future we were promised has not arrived but rather things are getting worse. Yet they still cling to the hope that a change to getting back onto Monofuture will soon happen.
No way of knowing in advance how well this opinion will go over in Mr. Greer’s circles, but I personally believe that colonizing space, and Mars in particular, is technologically possible. Whether the economic and cultural factors that would be necessary for such a venture will ever align is, of course, another question entirely.
At the most basic level, space colonization is an extension of the pioneering spirit – the desire to expand into a new and harsh environment – something which has always been part of the human experience.
Obviously, past pioneers didn’t expand into any environments nearly as harsh as Mars, which is why several new and sophisticated technologies would be needed in order to make Mars colonization possible. But the concept isn’t unprecedented – the Inuit, for example, developed a suite of technologies that allowed them to live in a frozen, treeless wasteland that was completely uninhabitable for all other ancient cultures.
The question then comes down to one of whether any human civilization will ever develop the suite of technologies needed for living on Mars. Mr. Greer is correct to point out that the present Faustian civilization isn’t headed anywhere near that direction. Nonetheless, if you reject linear progress and argue for the non-uniqueness of Faustian civilization, then that leaves open the possibility that some other civilization may one day develop differently from our own, master technologies that we never quite grasped, and end up with settlements on Mars.
I don’t believe in anything so naive as a straight path from the caves to the stars, but I do believe that, in the limitless variety of possible human culture-forms, spacefaring civilizations are possible.
I have been corrected my one of the friends in question – the term is “Luxury automated space communism.” Even better.
One can naturally guess at the politics of the friends using this term. I considered mentioning them on your post about the flight to the fringe. They’re very visibly preparing for exile from the political mainstream, though of course they’d object to that opinion in the strongest of terms.
I know this is a long post. Please forgive the length of it, but I believe it’s on topic.
Frederick Soddy FRS (2 September 1877 – 22 September 1956) was an English radiochemist who explained, with Ernest Rutherford, that radioactivity is due to the transmutation of elements, now known to involve nuclear reactions. He also proved the existence of isotopes of certain radioactive elements.
In four books written from 1921 to 1934, Soddy carried on a “campaign for a radical restructuring of global monetary relationships”, offering a perspective on economics rooted in physics – the laws of thermodynamics, in particular – and was “roundly dismissed as a crank”. While most of his proposals – “to abandon the gold standard, let international exchange rates float, use federal surpluses and deficits as macroeconomic policy tools that could counter cyclical trends, and establish bureaus of economic statistics (including a consumer price index) in order to facilitate this effort” – are now conventional practice, his critique of fractional-reserve banking still “remains outside the bounds of conventional wisdom” although a recent paper by the IMF reinvigorated his proposals. Soddy wrote that financial debts grew exponentially at compound interest but the real economy was based on exhaustible stocks of fossil fuels. Energy obtained from the fossil fuels could not be used again. This criticism of economic growth is echoed by his intellectual heirs in the now emergent field of ecological economics.
I’m not much of a “peak oil” historian, but I don’t remember any concern about it until the first “oil shocks” in 1973. And this guy was writing about it in the 1920s! A century later, apparently there’s now an “emergent” field of Ecological Economics.
JNG, ouch. I concede your take on Gibson is fair. I encountered Niven (and Brin) first, followed by Gibson; I read them all well after they were originally published, but for me reading them in that order had a profound effect. From “the sky is the limit!” to “well, actually, the sky IS the limit.”.
No, I don’t think it will take too long, but I’ve underestimated the inertia enough times before that I don’t trust that instinct too much any more. It seems like the absurdities and contradictions of our society, and the differences between what people experience and the myths, is growing exponentially.
My bet is that simple economic hardship will do in not just Tomorrowland, but a whole host of recent exercises in collective distraction and attention gathering. Clown World indeed.
The shale oil & fracking bust should dwarf the real estate bubble of 2008, which should be plenty to kick it off. The ending of the petro dollar (and with it the empire) should prolong that agony long enough that the believers in Mars colonies will shake their heads in wonder at the silly things they believed in their youth.
So what will replace the Monofuture as the default view of the future?
“Colourless green ideas sleep furiously” is Chomsky’s meaningless sentence, right? Grammatically correct but without coherent content? Are you saying the monomyth is analogous to that sort of statement? It resembles forms and seems to describe events but it does not.
Thomas Disch wrote an entertaining survey of the hucksters and visionaries of Science Fiction called “Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of”. He thought the ideology of the private rocket ship was closely connected to the myth of power around the personal automobile. Some of his stories reminded me of interviews featured in the book “Wired For War” by PW Singer. I think the direct quote (from some military figure interviewed) was “If it can be imagined, it can be built” – I think they were looking into light sabers and hover bikes if I remember correctly. “Wired For War” is all about the hubris of current notions of technological domination and the sort of small errors that can accumulate to massive failures, also the whole industry based on trying to deliver on the promise of these ideas.
For what it’s worth I used to worry quite a bit about the problems of technology, as I saw them then, until I realized that modern technology had another set of issues entirely – primarily that of energy and a lot of this very complex stuff is likely to become less important with time. Now my reading about the future is in the form of books like “Muddling Toward Frugality” and “Surviving The Future” (thanks for recommending both!) which present it more as an issue of adjustments and something to try to glide/steer toward, in step with circumstances, rather than blast off to ahead of the pack.
In garden news, in what I took to be a great omen, fifty to a hundred or so bees appeared in the flowering virginia creeper we have, and since then regular old bees of the “I never see them anymore” variety (we typically had carpenter bees and wasps about) are often in the mix around the place. On the bad side, a many of my experiments with potted plants started to fail, in some cases with the plants turning more than a bit yellow, which seems to possibly be nutrient loss from over watering (at least in part – likely there are several points of error at once). I have been taking notes for next year, but I thought it was worth experimenting with the failures, and since I had been fooling around with an open compost in a bucket I tried pouring the smelly dark liquid that collects in it on the roots of the yellowing plants, because it seemed “rich in something” that life liked, and to my surprise many of them got a renewed lease on life and are green again. I would not have thought it possible without fertilizing them, something I am trying to avoid since I have the time to learn methods that do not rely on it (or so it seems to me). For many years I have been watching how much life there is in rotting matter in our yard (taken from your general point with regards to this in Green Wizardry) and I’ve taken to developing it as quite a commitment (I try to prevent any organic matter leaving, even if the process of dealing with it is incredibly time consuming which it sometimes is, leaving me with hours and hours of work stripping leaves and cutting branches up (etc)) – which is sort of funny because I don’t actually yet really compost, I just let things rot for their own sake. It seems very important to offer whatever I can to this process since it obviously generates a lot of activity (it’s one spot the same bees always linger, even though there are no flowers anywhere nearby), and so plant life in my garden (like inedible weeds or small trees) that might be a problem are just happily producing food for this offering, and I “harvest” them for this purpose rather than “fight” them. What I have learned so far is that this rich liquid that collects is a big winner and portable, so distributing it to plants that seem “least robust” is something I added to my routine.
Will J said:
“everyone always believes whatever is fashionable in upper-class liberal circles. Why do you never read about a world where we’ve achieved the singularity and everyone, without exception, has become a Southern Baptist?”
I assure you the Southern Baptist version of the story ends that way…
There is so much in this post that I want to dig into! One thing at a time. First, I’ll talk a little about Japan because I mostly imbibe Japanese entertainment since about 2005, and there’s two developments there worth talking about related to this week’s topic.
First, you are absolutely spot on about genre fiction and how it always solidifies into a rigid formula. Genre fiction also says a lot about a society’s current state by showing you the fantasies they are escaping into (and the realities they are escaping from), and Japan’s most popular genre fiction says a lot about the plight of young men in that society.
In the “Isekai” genre, which means the “To another world” genre, the young male nerdy protagonist begins the story by dying and being transferred by some known or unknown power into another world that operates exactly like a video game, and the protagonist, through next to no effort, quickly becomes the most powerful and important person in that world, assembling a large harem of women along the way, each one perfectly fitting some fetish. Any male companions he may have attract exactly 0 attention from the women and do not threaten the main protagonist in any way as a rival, and any challenges he encounters he overcomes, often rather easily. Japanese novels, comic books and cartoons are overflowing with this theme and have been ever since the banking crisis in 2008.
Japanese science fiction, however, is largely free of the Western monofuture and explores topics I find much more interesting with futures much more diverse, and I always tell my friends what they’re missing out on. I recommend reading anything that has won the Nihon SF Taisho Award, and my personal favorite is “Shin Sekai Yori”, From the New World, written in 2008 by Yusuke Kishi, who’s more of a mystery and horror writer. You can usually find stuff translated for free online with some googling. From the New World explores a future 1000 years after a small percentage of humans develop psychokinesis, and let’s just say that the only technology left are windmills that produce just enough electricity to keep town announcements running.
After reading the book, I complained to my American friends that this type of SF is just not written in America, or is at least really difficult to find, and it’s really because SF has really devolved into genre-fiction that everyone mistakes for the real future. In regards to just how rigid it is, here’s an anecdote: Since we know that humans cannot survive in space very long as is, I passed along the idea to multiple writing groups about writing a novel about humans who have been genetically modified (severely) to survive in space, and what that humanity looks like, and there is no interest. It’s much more plausible than the Star Trek fantasy, but not palatable at all.
Is there any sign that the monofuture’s strangle on SF is breaking? Do you expect the genre to stick to the formula even as the civilization continues to decline?
A few years back I checked out a book from the library written by a scientist describing the environment of Antarctica (I can’t recall the title exactly but will try to hunt it up again). He wrote from the viewpoint of a biologist but vividly described the brutal weather conditions that often isolate the science stations located there for months at a time. This isolation can play havoc with the people there. The example of the doctor who discovered she had breast cancer and self-treated herself while waiting months to be air-lifted out to get her to a hospital for more thorough treatment is one. He also describe one individual (who worked in the kitchens I think) who cracked up and barricaded himself with knives at the ready. They finally coaxed him out but needless to say he was quickly air-lifted back to civilization when weather permitted.
And this is on Earth. What is going to happen to any Martian colonist forced to live underground (to avoid the radiation) with Earth at least two or three years in the distance?
Boosters of Martian colonies really need to pay a short visit to the South Pole for a reality check.
Robert, sodium perchlorate is routinely found in bleach, as a product of the breakdown of sodium hypochlorite. I used the term “bleach-laced” because it communicates, to those who don’t know chemistry, something of the chemical quality of Martian soils. As for the role of perchlorates in rocket fuel, they’re oxidizers — you still need fuel.
Ruth, in a sense, yes — but my point is that we’re not getting a monofuture at all, but a diverse range of polyfutures, none of which contain space colonies, flying cars, etc.
Kimberly, yes, I’ve seen those — and yes, they’re almost always in neighborhoods strictly segregated by income level, whose residents rely on illegal immigrants for the indentured labor that keeps their lifestyles propped up.
MichaelV, I hope someone has the courage to go public about that before NASA condemns a half dozen astronauts to slow death by radiation poisoning by sending them to Mars.
Patricia M, hmm. Much science fiction is about political agency, certainly, but all of it? There I beg to differ. John Crowley’s Engine Summer, for example, is a coming-of-age story with no reference to political agency I can think of; Doris Piserchia’s Earthchild is another; and the first two volumes of C.S. Lewis’ planetary trilogy are religious SF pure and simple, in which the agency of the central character is theologically rather than politically expressed. To my mind, the fixation of SF on questions of political agency in recent decades is one of the dullest things about it. But you’re right that SF can be far from mere space opera.
Barrigan, if you’re going to go for a specific year, yeah, that one works better.
StarNinja, why, then, get to work writing that!
Rita, I remember both of those well! Thanks for the blast from the past.
Andrew, one of the odder effects of my Aspergers syndrome is that I think exclusively in spoken language — it took years of hard work for me to learn to visualize things with any degree of competence — and so the role of visual imagery is of course something I don’t tend to focus on; of course it’s also the case that I avoid visual media, and that my own creative skills are pretty much exclusively verbal! You’re right, though, that the imagery is an important part of the picture, so to speak — which is why I balanced the various images in this week’s post. In terms of working more directly with imagery, though, I’ll have to leave that to those who have the relevant skills, and keep working with names rather than images…
Christophe, I’ve been seeing the same thing; that’s why I think the Monofuture may be close to its pull date.
I haven’t gotten a whole lot of active pushback when I suggest that we’re never going to Mars. For the most part, people seem to undergo a mental reset, like their brains have bluescreened. Wait ten seconds or so, and they’ll start chattering on again, displaying no awareness of what I just said.
I never liked the insistence that science fiction is about technological development, and that’s it. That’s the case for a ton of stories, of course, many of them quite good. But it leaves out writers like Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe and Ray Bradbury, who use technology as a plot device to let their freak flags fly. Personally, I’d rather read a mountain of writers like them than bother with a “realistic” SF story by Ben Bova.
Speaking of which, there was some hoopla about a book called “The Martian,” subsequently made into a movie, because it was hypothetically a scientifically valid Mars colonization story. No mention of perchlorates in the Martian soil (though they may have been discovered after the movie), no mention of Mars’ lack of magnetic field, no mention of radiation shielding on the ship. Just plucky astronaut know-how, saving the day.
Would it be safe to say that monofuturists would be the same people whose heads explode if, heaven forbid, someone around them encourages the re-adopting of earlier technologies?
For instance, I keep thinking that Boeing should have re-introduced the 757 instead of reconfiguring the 737 into the max. I am an aviation geek and know the strengths and weaknesses of both types of aircraft. I came to the conclusion that Boeing building new 757s would have been a much better idea than their trying to make the 737 Max flyable through the use of a software crutch.
So I checked some aviation blogs, to see if anyone else agreed with me, and the only people who’ve agreed with me, so far, have been current and former 757 airline pilots. (But what do they know?). What was not surprising was the number of people, in the comment sections of the blogs, whom insisted that Boeing could never go back to building an airplane that was originally designed in the mid-80s.
But why not? Why is there so much insistence that we can never go back to an older technology? Especially one that works and doesn’t crash. I won’t go into the arguments the commenters made against the 757, here, but I will say that they were all easy to refute. Which makes me think that the basis behind the arguments was really that one can never adopt an older technology. Period. Don’t even try. Don’t even consider it.
I see this mentality in so many walks of life it drives me crazy. If one of our leaders at work suggests that we must adopt the latest technology, and one of us lowly workers suggests that what we have is working fine, thank you very much, we are treated as heretics and told we’d better get with the program. (Which is probably what happened at Boeing, I suppose.)
I will conclude with this simple comment: I own a 1940s dial phone (a land line phone, for the youngsters reading), which still works and has superior reception to any other phone I’ve used.
Here’s the lyrics to a song by Donald Fagan (of Steely Dan) published in 1982. I find this to be accurate even 37 years later. A rather snarky look at the monofuture. The title “IGY…what a beautiful world”:
Standing tough under stars and stripes, we can tell
This dream’s in sight
You’ve got to admit it
At this point in time that it’s clear
The future looks bright
On that train, all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
Well, by ’76 we’ll be A-OK
What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free
Get your ticket to that wheel in space while there’s time
The fix is in
You’ll be a witness to that game of chance in the sky
You know we’ve got to win
Here at home we’ll play in the city
Powered by the sun
Perfect weather for a streamlined world
There’ll be spandex jackets, one for everyone
What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free
On that train, all graphite and glitter
Undersea by rail
Ninety minutes from New York to Paris
(More leisure for artists everywhere)
A just machine to make big decisions
Programmed by fellas with compassion and vision
We’ll be clean when the work is done
We’ll be eternally free, yes, and eternally young
What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free
Laughingly yours, Aged Spirit
No idea how to embed images here, but I would like offer this alternative as a “vision of the future”. Courtesy of the “Joy of Tech” webcomic, entitled “Internet of Ransomware Things”:
(Dear JMG, you may be able to edit and post the comic here instead.)
Malcolm, thank you. In case you’re wondering about the asterisks, yes, I mean the thing above the comment box about no profanity; I appreciate your enthusiasm, but this is an all ages blog.
Will O, fortunately I wrote about it extensively in The Archdruid Report. Here’s a snarky overview
David BTL, of course — but the canned narrative of progress assumes that all such attempts at resistance are doomed to fail, because the entire narrative is a morality play in which the heroic proponents of progress face off against a group of conservative sticks-in-the-mud who utter a doleful jeremiad about the evils of change, and then lie down and let change steamroller right over them. That the resistance might be successful or the change a flop is not something believers in progress can let themselves think.
BlueWinds, “fully automated space Communism” is funny; thanks for that. As for the metaphor you’re using, though, yes, that’s been rehashed endlessly for three quarters of a century now, so it’s no wonder that it comes so easily to mind. Do you happen to know how many life forms have colonized the central Antarctic ice cap?
Nobody, I know. I routinely hear people going on at length about the glorious future in a gizmocentric paradise moments after they’ve talked about yet another round of cascading failures in the technology they’ve got. It astonishes me that they never stop and think that in space, say, if the technology breaks down you can’t just walk away from it…
Your Kittenship, somebody’s going to have to write The Baptist Singularity, and it ain’t going to be me. As for shoggoths, they can produce various moistures as desired, including the one responsible for their slimy reputation — it’s called by a phrase that translates out as “moisture of war” and is more or less like very slippery liquid tear gas. If a shoggoth decides to slime you with that, you’ll be coughing and gasping for a good long time. There are, er, other moistures as well, as noted in The Shoggoth Concerto, but modesty forbids a detailed discussion here…
Dusk Shine, okay, that makes a good deal of sense. When progress doesn’t happen, redefine progress? Yeah, and then redefine it again, and again, and again…
Niko, thanks for this.
Wesley, the universe doesn’t care whether you believe in Man’s Future In Space. It really doesn’t — and the fact that believers in progress so often default to handwaving about “the pioneering spirit” rather than addressing the hard physical issues is one of the reasons why I’m sure that deep down, you know perfectly well that it’s all just an empty fantasy.
BlueWinds, that would make a fine fringe ideology — it’s appealing to believers and absurd to everyone else, and thus provides the filtering mechanism important to any proper fringe movement.
Bird, it’s not a particularly long post, and while it’s tangentially on topic at best, I’ve let it through because it relates to one of my favorite hobby horses, the need to revive economic systems other than Marxian socialism and libertarian capitalism, both of which do a very poor job of meeting human needs. Have you set up a website to promote Soddy’s economic ideas? If not, consider it.
Isaac, I can see how that would have had quite an impact! By the time I got to Gibson, I’d been reading SF for more than a quarter century, starting with Louis Slobodkin’s The Spaceship Under The Apple Tree and and going from there through the whole gamut of children’s SF, through young adult SF (Andre Norton was the guiding star of that phase of my reading), to the adult stuff. I was reading Heinlein by age 12, Dune at 14, the wilder end of the New Wave before I hit 20 — well, you get the idea. That was part of why Gibson was such a letdown. Niven’s “Known Space” was hokey, but at least it had the sense of wonder that typified SF at its best. Gibson offered instead a sense of stale grease and body odor.
Twilight, I don’t think the next set of social myths are predetermined, so it’s anyone’s guess at this point what it might be!
Johnny, yes, that’s Chomsky’s nonsentence, but I didn’t have anything so sweeping in mind — just a demonstration that I can conceive of things that not only don’t exist, and can’t exist, but are not comprehensible enough to allow issues of existence to come up. As for gardening, try throwing a cup or two of compost in a bucket, fill the bucket with water, leave it overnight, and then pour it on your plants. That’s called compost tea, and there is no better fertilizer for most plants.
Dennis, thanks for this! Human beings genetically modified for space used to be a concept all over science fiction — I can think of half a dozen stories that used it — but yeah, nobody wants anything that innovative these days. Maybe somebody needs to translate more Japanese SF into English, so it can shake up the US market…
Jeanne, exactly. The fact that people aren’t doing that is another thing that shows me that it’s all just a fantasy.
Cliff, oh, granted. I read Bova in my youth, when I devoured every sort of SF, but that end of the genre bored me fairly quickly and I went off into stranger realms. As for “The Martian,” yeah, I read Robinson Crusoe too.
Lacking, yep. That’s one of the ways you can tell that faith in progress is a religion, not a reasoned response to anything. It’s simply delusional. If an older technology works, then it works, and if it’s more resilient and less failure-prone than later models, then that ought to be taken into account.
Aged Spirit, good heavens, now there’s a blast from the past! That was a hit back during my first pass through college, and I’d all but forgotten it. Thank you.
Carlos, I figure it’s better to leave a link to the site so readers can visit it regularly and maybe even chip in some cash. Thanks for this — and, ahem, that’s one of the reasons why I don’t have internet-enabled anything in my home! (Other than one outdated laptop not networked to anything else, with electrician’s tape across its web camera…)
The Monofuture. I’ve never heard it stated quite like that, but it certainly jives with a viewpoint I held until recently, even though I never thought about it consciously. The myth is rooted deeply in our culture and for a certain class of people, the Monofuture is already happening. They don’t go shopping (Instacart) or do errands (Task Rabbit) and they can immerse themselves in cathartic violence (Game of Thrones, Fortnite) without actual bloodshed. Mars colonization is around the corner. Elon Musk is on it. What me worry?
Of course, what’s not to like is that the techno elite lifestyle rests on the back of the humiliating “gig” economy and massive ecological destruction. For starters.
But the question is how to offer a positive(-ish) alternative for those who care? UK based Transition Towns (and ideological Godfather David Fleming) appealed to me because they envisioned a radically different future that could be… fun. A Carnival even. Previously, I had a vague sense of unease, but until I could envision a positive future, I interpreted all the critiques as no-fun/anti-progress/hippy-dippy preachers. Thoughts on humans?
“Löwith’s argument in Meaning in History is that the western view of history is confused by the relationship between Christian faith and the modern view, which is neither Christian nor pagan. He writes,” The modern mind has not made up its mind whether it should be Christian or pagan, it sees with one eye of faith and one of reason. Hence its vision is necessarily dim in comparison with either Greek or biblical thinking.” The modern view is progressive, which is to say that it believes that the trajectory of history is moving towards a fulfillment in the bettering of the world by rational and technological means. Löwith believes that the modern view is a sort of Christian “heresy” insofar that is depends on the theology that history has a linear movement, in contrast to Greek pagan cyclical view of history.”
Apparently, at least one eminent (if not very well known here in America) theologian would agree with you. The article goes on to state that Lowith traces the evolution of the progressive heresy as it developed, but backwards, where he finds less and less trace of it, till he gets to Scripture, where (he argues) there is properly none at all. I may have to consult this guy! The insight that modernity has a dim vision, as compared either with the Apollonian pagan worldview, or the worldview of (say) St. Augustine or even the early Gothic, is intriguing. I’ve tried to pin down the moment in Western history when it morphs into an autonomous thing, but the best I can do is point to the Renaissance or the late medieval period, when it began to dawn on mathematicians and others that there were a lot of forces “locked up” in nature that could be exploited. Sorokin’s division of cultures into idealistic, sensate, or ideational makes a lot of sense. You want the ideational culture, which is a “balance” or “poise” between a fully dreamed vision (idealistic) and a decent into matter (sensate). The West seems to have kept trying to find that poise, but events always drove it out of itself: the opening of the New World, for instance, and the mercantilist struggle for Empire, coinciding with Sir Francis Bacon and later the French philosophes and the unleashing of the energies of the French Revolution, certainly helped shove things along. In America, the dividing line pretty clearly seems to be the end of World War II, but there were lots of premonitory movings and shakings.
On the green wizard front: The chickens are a success this year, but not the bees. It’s too bad it’s illegal to do tree beekeeping, at least for now: I’ve heard that they do better, overall: small hive beetle is a devastating problem for them, in the South.
Why not a singularity of Baptists and shoggoths who find themselves working together to stop [threat]? Seems to me that would be bunches of fun.
I know about as much about Baptists as I do about shoggoths. I was a Roman Catholic for 45 years, until the church left me, so I never learned much about the theology of other religions. I had enough trouble keeping up with my own. So a Baptist Singularity story would need to work in some info so readers like me wouldn’t get lost, but I believe it could be done and be extremely entertaining!
I think you might be putting too much of the blame on science fiction in general. Star Trek homed in on the Monofuture quite deliberately (in the guise of “Roddenberry’s Vision”) and subsequently became its Prime Meridian, but not much SF literature is that much like Star Trek. Many of Trek’s technical tropes come from Smith’s Lensman series which is a kind of hybrid of space SF and superheroes. The closest recent SF series I know of to Star Trek is Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan series (to the point where the Trek spinoff series borrowed bits of Bujold’s setting; for instance her “Betans” from Beta, the sex-positive planet, became “Betazoids” from Betazed in the Next Generation series). But like a lot of space opera main characters, her heroes and heroines are misfits from troubled worlds. Outside of Star Trek, whatever it is that powers the spaceships doesn’t appear to be available to solve every material problem once the spaceships land.
(Indeed, a fun subversion of the space opera genre would be to make the spaceships operate like typical space opera spaceships, calculate how much power density they would require to do so, and then realistically extrapolate the consequences of having control of power densities that high. The flashlight function on your smart phone could vaporize a mountain.)
Who would I blame instead for the Monofuture? I always associated it with the corporate-sponsored iconography of the Great Exhibitions and World’s Fairs, and their spinoffs like EPCOT (originally supposed to be a literal Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow) and the architectural style of airports. The official motto of Expo ’67 (which I saw at age 7) was “Man and his world.” Nothing grandiose there…
This topic also always reminds me of a Sesame Street song, “Someday, Little Children.” The first verse all but promises that the child audience will see people living on the moon in their lifetimes, and the follow-up verses escalate from there! (The end of all sickness, and a world of peace and love.) “You know who’s gonna make it happen? Little children, I’m depending on you.” (Sorry, Susan. We, um, didn’t quite manage.) Audio here:
Yes, good idea to keep the link to the comic. I hadn’t thought of that (but I don’t make a living posting content on the Internet), thank you.
Being an IT “professional” working in a fairly cutting-edge field, I need to have quite a few internet connected devices at home, but only the absolute bare minimum I can live with. I am probably the most technologically conservative “tech guy” that I know of. I have a colleague who is a total gadget junkie, has at least a dozen Google Home and Amazon Dot devices in his house. I wryly remarked that it’s astonishing that we work the same job; I’m in the opposite end of the spectrum, since the highest-tech gadget I own is a four-year-old low-end smartphone (I don’t even have a television)! Quite tellingly, he replied: “well, at least you’re not a slave like the rest of us!”
At the insistence of my wife, I ended up buying a robot vacuum for the house. I picked a cheap low-end model with good reviews and readily available supplies, and crucially, without wifi connectivity. The thing has an old school infrared remote with a programmable timer, which is perfectly fine. It actually works well for our house’s layout, and its “dumb” random navigation is smart enough to detect things like drops and edges and clean up a good sized room. The fancier vacuums with app-control and house-mapping features had several negative reviews citing bad reliability.
Privacy concerns anyone? Your internet connected robovac knows both the layout of your house and your cleaning schedules! Talk about “casing the joint”! Why does everything need to be controlled via an app, over the internet, anyway??? I don’t need to control anything in my house remotely; my washing machine has a programmable timer that’s very simple to set and that’s all that’s necessary in my case.
I technically qualify as a millenial, but my parents are Steely Dan fans. Fagen’s album “The Nightfly”, where IGY is the opening track, is part of my rotating playlist. I wanted to post it here but you beat me to it!
Bad thing about the Monofuture is that it obscures the real possibilities in life. Chasing the dream one may fail to recognize the real good things in life.
As my late high school professor of philosophy used to say, one should never go for all or nothing at all; one should always go for all or something.
I had to laugh out loud at the (former?) IT person who mentioned the thing about “turn it off and turn it back on”
I have an acquaintance who is a True Believer in Progress. Specifically: Teslas for everyone will save the human race. (I forwarded to him the article someone here linked to a while back on the resources that would be needed to electrify all of Britain’s cars. He refused to read it, and basically said “they’ll think of something” to overcome pesky limits to current rare metal supplies. He found that one can buy a used model S for the price of a new model 3 and has gone way over his head in debt to do so, but I digress.)
He related to me the story of a problem he was having with his precious car a while back. Tesla tech support had him hold down two buttons on the steering wheel, thereby forcing the car to reboot. I wish I was making this up. I recall 15-20 years ago there was an oft-forwarded joke about “What if Microsoft designed cars”. It wasn’t a joke, it turns out. It was a prediction.
And I have ridden in that car when autopilot was engaged, and all I can say about the future of self-driving cars is “Dear Gods, NOOOOO!”
I’m afraid the “Southern Baptist singularity” has already been written. It’s called the Left Behind series.
Lacking Clever User Name,
In my country, the very last dial phones were phased out in the early 90’s. While I am technically a millenial, I remember using both dial desk phones and pay phones as a small kid.
I still have a landline, but it comes with my Internet package, and the handset is hooked up to the fiber optic GPON modem (which means I have no phone when the power goes out… Heil Progress!). Out of sheer curiosity, I set the handset to “pulse dial” and tried to call my mobile.
It worked! Which means a rotary phone will still work (for whatever reason, the Chinese engineers decided to continue supporting pulse dialing)! Though I doubt the modem can send enough power to it to make it ring.
The following portion also addressed to JMG et. al,
And yes, voice quality of modern phone systems are terrible. The best ones for voice quality were the copper based landlines. The 2G/GSM mobile phones of the late 90’s and early 00’s were actually pretty good, but as networks became data-centric, voice quality has gone downhill. Modern VOIP networks also have time lags, echoes, and dropouts that did not exist in older analog or analog/digital hybrid systems. Today’s mobile phones are amazing bits of tech, but they’re objectively awful phones, and rather mediocre for everything else that they can do (why the heck do I need three multimegagigaterapixel back cameras???). Heck, even the T9 predictive text of the Nokia 1100 I had back in colllege was better than my keyboard app with it’s “cloud based” “AI enabled” autocorrect.
Again, yay Progress!
For what it’s worth, I still wear an (analog, quartz) watch every day, and although I increasingly rely on a navigation app for driving, I still have a compass on the dashboard and a map in the glove box. I should probably get me a slide rule…
Hello JMG: Thanks for writing on this interesting theme.
“It’s not just that there are solid reasons why we will never colonize other planets, or that flying cars have been built”:
I understand that your article is about a Monofuture focused on space travel, but in many other ways a Monofuture of new technology is still very much our central reality, speeding up to take over more and more spheres of life, eating up more of the biosphere. As Dmitry Orlov summarizes it in “Shrinking the Technosphere : “The biosphere and the technosphere are in opposition—a fight to the death”.
My interpretation based on the thesis of Orlov’s book is that enthusiasm for the Monofuture would be controlled by the independent “will” of the technosphere which Orlov hypothesizes was unleashed with the Neolithic revolution.
The Monofuture which is very much on track in the technological present is taking more control of our lives even among the not very rich. You have to take a ticket to queue and and then be prompted by your number coming up on an electronic screen, people looking at their smartphones rather than the sky to decide whether to take an umbrella, kids (even those whose parents have little disposable income) spending money to buy virtual outfits for their avatar (or is the proper term skin?) for online games and socializing through them etc.
JMG to David BTL: “… the entire narrative is a morality play in which the heroic proponents of progress face off against a group of conservative sticks-in-the-mud who utter a doleful jeremiad about the evils of change.”
In his essay, “C’était mieux avant”, 2018, author Michel Serres, 87 years old, criticizes the elderly who talk about the good old days, whereas another Frenchman Edgar Morin more wisely wrote that:
We must no longer oppose a radiant future to a past of servitudes and superstitions. All cultures have their virtues, their experiences, their wisdom, along with their shortcomings and ignorance.
(“Il ne faut plus opposer un futur radieux à un passé de servitudes et de superstitions. Toutes les cultures ont leurs vertus, leurs expériences, leurs sagesses, en même temps que leurs carences et leurs ignorances.”)
The colonization of central Antarctica: What a horrible thought for the penguins and other creatures who still find a relatively safe refuge there from human “civilization” as well as for our human need for the wild (what arises independently of human will) as much in imagination as in experience.
Faith in progress.
Today is the Swiss national day. I’m planning to go to listen to the official speech by the local authorities although I’m pretty sure it’ll be all about promoting economic growth and the glorious technological Monofuture (without the space travel though) which the Swiss population must strive hard to be part of.
I keep an eye on computers but don’t know them well enough to write convincingly about it. So I’ll leave Big Iron to someone who can do it justice.
There are some hardcore Star Trek fans who will analyse it down to the last detail, but they can’t agree on how the economy actually works. I’ve heard everything from neoliberalism to state capitalism one step away from Stalinism. The latter certainly has some credibility when you consider how much of the means of production is controlled by Starfleet.
The ultimate depiction of Fully Automated Space Communism are Iain M Banks’ Culture novels. The Culture may be utopia’s end, as I doubt anyone will ever be able to outdo its magnificence. The only way you’d have a chance would be a spiritual utopia, as the Culture is purely materialistic. I loved it and for many years, like many on the left, considered this the future we were actually aiming for.
But now I have a sense a certain rot has set in, and it’s become all about the technology. I suspect a lot of the proponents of Fully Automated Luxury Communism and its derivatives, if offered the choice between a fully liberated humanity, but with a technological knockback, or oppression on Mars, they’d choose oppression on Mars.
I’m less bothered about this than I thought I’d be. I hoped the Culture stage wouldn’t come on too soon, as the part that really appealed to me was the heroic age of socialist construction – bulging muscles in the driving rain. Robots would spoil that. If technology is going back to somewhere between the early modern period and the First World War, it’ll be like a socialist society in a Miyazaki film. That’s my kind of utopia. Though hopefully with less environmental destruction and fewer angry forest spirits than Irontown in Princess Mononoke. 🙂
Well, we all need to believe in something it seems, and some people need to believe in things more intensely than others. As JMG has pointed out before the monofuture is just another heavenly place out there somewhere in the future that takes us away from the frustrations of the here and now. Tale as old as time.
I’ve done enough inner work now to know that I ran most of my life on fear – sensitive nervous system, childhood trauma, probably some past life stuff, all the usual suspects. One fairly standard psychological response to fear is to seek comfort in mental belief systems. So believing in something, anything, seems to be necessary for some people – and logically it’s important that the something mustn’t actually materialize because then it becomes your reality and you have to deal again with how you feel in the here and now. A quick inventory of things I’ve believed in during my life: socialism, social-change-through-rock-and-roll, yuppiedom, storing up money, Christianity, the future of western civilization, the coming failure of western civilization, the power of now, herbalism, permaculture, Chelsea FC. All through these phases of my life I did the work – I worked hard in the computer industry, I went to church, I built a homestead, I downsized my life, etc But that didn’t seem to be enough. I also imbued a lot of what I did with belief – that what I was doing had certain values, would make me into a certain sort of person, would lead to certain things in the future. And, guess what, none of them turned out to be anything like what I expected and life had a chuckle at my plans and carried on being the mixed-bag it can be. What a journey.
I still get a kick out of Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life – after taking us all on a tour of various aspects of history, faith, futurism and philosophy we get the answer: “Well, it’s nothing very special. Try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations”. Makes me smile every time.
Fwiw, my 20 something kids don’t seem to believe in the monofuture, it seems to be losing its grip, no longer the water all around that my generation swam in. As it comes apart, I expect people will increasingly turn to alternative religions, maybe some shards of the old future such as social justice, but especially nostalgia for the past. In fact nostalgia and mourning for the monofuture could be as powerful a form of faith as anticipation of it.
Lacking, I read some aviation blogs that also claimed stopping production of the 757 had been a mistake. But the 737 is from the 60s, much older than the 80s 757. It was having to replace its original pencil-thin engines with larger models under the same low wing that caused all the problems. So I can’t see how it can have been just about age or the 737 would have gotten the chop.
One claim is that Boeing’s true mistake was tangling with Bombardier. The C-Series, now patched over as the A220, is exactly what the airlines are looking for at the moment. A narrowbody regional jet, but with the range to cross the Atlantic. There’s a good chance it will skin Boeing alive.
The video, which Tim provided, was quite funny – it reminded me of Laurel and Hardy, as if it were “Laurel and Hardy in the year 2000”.
About Star Trek, there is an interesting factor. Quite a few of the newer episodes, I mean the episodes with Captain Picard and Janeway, contain actions and imagery that quite distinctly reminded me of things to do with occultism. For example, the process of beaming is depicted in a way that reminds me of the Middle Pillar exercise, complete with floating chakras. There is in one episode a crew member, Ocampa Kes, I believe, was it, which has magical forces. Another person does rituals sitting before a candle; this ritual has to do with exchanging complex thought-forms between persons. And so on.
Re the interaction of individuals w/i a society
I would agree with you, but my values are based on the Western Enlightenment. A society centered on Confucian ideals might disagree vehemently with that principle. If a group cannot abide the rules and customs of a nation-state, find one that works for you or carve out your own to the extent you can. I think most people would find, as a practical matter, that a stable nation-state finds a reasonable accommodation for minority groups. At the end of the day, however, we should not be telling other nations what values to adopt b/c I don’t want them telling me what values to adopt either. China is China and China’s problems are China’s problems. Likewise the EU. Likewise Saudi Arabia.
The phrase that was mentioned above, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” is little more than our excuse to stick our nose into other people’s business.
But I think most empires operate in that fashion, so we are on the typical path. This monoculture future John discusses is really an extension of the same idea of dominance and homogeneity.
While I certainly do not disagree with anything you’ve said here about the unreasonable status the religion of progress plays in our daily lives, I think some of the examples you have used in this article actually distract from your point.
For example, the reason most learned people completely discount astrology today is because it has failed repeatedly in double blind scientific studies when it has been investigated. Personal values aside, it has proven titself not to be independently repeatable. I know you have claimed in previous articles that it is reliable for specific practioners in specific instances, but this doesn’t meet scientific standards. This puts it squarely in the realm of religion or philosophy, and most people simply don’t follow the religion of astrology the way they adhere the religion of progress. You can’t fault people for what they believe. Fundamentalists of any religion act this way. It just so happen progress has more fundamentalists than other religions do.
With regard to why we don’t colonize Antarctica instead of Mars, a big part of that is due to a treaty which prevents it. Every so often you hear about industrialists who bring it up, and it never goes anywhere. Beyond just the legal issues, there is limited upside potential given the huge risk. Mars on the other hand, has even bigger risk, but a much, much larger possible return. This, combined with the notoriety that would go along with achieving the objective, means capitalists are much more likely to fund endeavors to Mars than to an inhospitable climate on Earth. In this instance, I think you have not given enough recognition to the capitalist nature of investors. True, investors act with their reptilian brain and then apply logic to justify it, but it is important to recognize the reward structure that goes along with Mars vs. a simpler terran equivalent. Anyone who has ever tried to raise funds from VC’s knows this problem well. It’s not necessarily religion pushing for Mars vs. Antarctica as much as it is neuroscience.
But thank you for a very stimulating article this week. I find you to be one of the most thought provoking writers on the internet today, even when I find myself disagreeing with your conclusions. Your efforts every week are appreciated. There are few other sites that provide these kinds of intriguing discussions.
They did a movie recently (2018) called ‘The Titan’ with the blurb “On a bleak future Earth, a soldier endures a radical genetic transformation in order to save humanity. But his wife fears he’s becoming more creature than man” … by the end of the movie in order to be able to go to Titan he was pretty much not human any more.
Re the role of the resistance in the narrative of the Monofuture
Ah. Allowing the great Steam-roller of Progress to run them over…like the Chinese were suppose to stand aside in Tanzania “just like they folded in Gabon” 😉
If nothing else, I see this blog and community here as helping to seed the field with a vast harvest of counter-narratives. I’ve got a few in mind already…
Your point that the proper role of monofuture sci-fi (like harlequin romances) is to let “readers feel a little better about themselves and the inevitable frustrations of their lives because they have the chance to wallow in lush daydreams” really hits home for me. Having fond memories of the TNG/DS9/VOY era of Star Trek, I’ve started amassing a small collection of the better tie-in novels. However, they’ll never be far from Star’s Reach and Aurora on my shelf.
It’s not a Southern Baptist singularity, but The Mote in God’s Eye depicts a nominally Orthodox Christian (IIRC) interstellar empire. As for being online making people weird, there’s a great bit in Max Brooks’ World War Z about that.
As unpopular as it may be in a community that focuses on limits, I really do think there is a middle ground between believing in limitless, preordained progress for the current global civilization, and believing that no civilization will ever develop clean power or space colonies for as long as the earth shall stand.
When I talk about “the pioneering spirit” as something at play in space colonization, I’m not handwaving – I’m just pointing out a historical precedent for people traversing and settling in harsh environments that their ancestors would not have thought survivable.
I think that one of the less-talked-about consequences of acknowledging, as Greer does, the non-uniqueness and non-specialness of Western civilization, is that our failure to develop a particular technology cannot be taken as evidence that the technology in question is impossible.
I am not a naive “believer in progress” – rather, I believe, as Spengler did, in the cyclical rise and fall of a near-infinite diversity of human civilizations. Since each civilization develops in a different form from the others with different suites of technology, I don’t believe it makes sense for us to take our limited experience with Faustian civilization and say things along the lines of:
During the 70 years, we have failed to achieve X, therefore X is impossible.
Working within the framework of our limited understanding of what future, non-Faustian cultures will/won’t achieve, I don’t think it’s possible to answer the question of “Will anybody ever settle Mars?” with a NO; the best we can manage is a MAYBE.
I think I can in this instance call a ‘first’ ahead of you – I stopped reading Sci Fi best part of a decade before you.and Sarah, (OK I am 20 years older; smile).
A curious thing happened however in the mid-90s when(I was prevailed on to get a second-hand TV here in Britain for mainly teenage son and his little sister to watch soccer. We also watched some old Brit comedy (pretty good) and Star Trek re-runs – not your earliest series btw. It was partly for me a nostalgia trip to Heinlein and Co. of my youth, but I became fond of Commander Data and The Borg and later of 7-of-9 ‘ (Voyager lost-in-the Universe’ series). Somebody on one of your blogs ages ago said that Cmdr. Data had been a high-functioning really nice-guy Asperger’s role model in his childhood. None of us are Asperger’s in our family, but I know what your correspondent meant. (Our kids actually remained book-readers having cut their teeth on Gandalf and Narnia et al.)
I had by the 90s long since discarded the notion that on our World we would all become Americans, so that side of Star Trek was idiotic, but I guess to the extent that our culture *had* actually become ^American* this side of the pond, the wistful ‘Fairy Tale’ aspects were a much easier kind of storytelling than real fairy tales.
Ugo Bardi has a curious partly auto- biographical reprise of his belief system this week when he realises that even the ‘Science’ he believed was a ‘Universal’ is now breaking up again into ‘Russian’ or other ‘national’ belief systems and joins the strange borderland of fact and fiction.
I notice the emphasis on the written word here or Western pop culture, which narrows us down to the monoculture/monofuture. Consider sounds such as discussion or music from a world perspective.
With a long wire, a good ground, and a small shortwave receiver; or Tune In on a phone, or the web; you can listen to the World having a discussion or a jam without us. The World spins stories, often in English, which do not match our narrative. Afro-pop and Australian Country exist just wavelengths apart.
Last week there was a mention of American Country melding with hip-hop. Surf “ABC Country” and you can stream a variant of country music that is more singer songwriter and not so much about booze and trucks. I listen the Saturday Night Country Western on Saturday mornings…
The point is there is a lot a wave coming in. And a lot of the world is pretty past the monofuture myth and figuring out what happens next. It ain’t always pretty, but sometimes it is quite beautiful.
Ok, I have to throw in my two centimes. I have worked in the space program for 30 odd years with Lockheedm, then Honeywell, about two thirds in Manned Space in Advanced Technology groups. I grew up on old stories like John Carter, Doc Savage, Agent of T.E.R.R.A. as well as all the classic SF authors. ( Heinlein notably getting into gender bending WAY before the current generation were born.)
I often asked the question as to why we wanted to send people to Mars. Inhospitable, nothing of value and a long way away with lots of killer radiation along the way. NO ONE could answer that in NASA, not even at the highest levels so I assumed they had all taken their Barsoom tales too seriously and were hoping to find buxom green mates. The official brief says it assumed that manned exploration is of value and don’t discuss it.
The Moon is another really difficult nut to crack. Regolith is *really* nasty stuff and almost eliminates the possibility of maintaining a base. It is electrostatic, conductive and really really sharp. Astronaut boots wore out in about an hour. A Space Transportation Working Group I was in concluded it was a real show stopper. And nothing there of value. Pioneering spirit was grand when you had empty , very habitable lands to move into once you killed off the indigenous people but I noticed no one settled in Death Valley.
ISS has never been useful for much than PR and most of the astronauts time is spent repairing old 1990’s tech (i386 is still the standard processor)
I think much better entertainment would be to drop “astronauts” into volcanos and see if /how long they survive.
That said, I am not a complete pessimist. The unmanned programs are doing amazing work and returning immense amount of valuable science data for relatively low cost.
Helium 3 could be extracted by unmanned missions to the smaller gas giants like Uranus and outer planets explored. The Asteroid belt has large amounts of precious metals like platinum etc would could be mined remotely as well.
I think if humans can manage to repair the damage to the ecosphere and keep technology alive and growing, maybe in 100 or 200 years, they can think about colonising other planets. Not holding my breath though, going to take advantage of the increasing CO2 levels to grow more of my own food 🙂
PS Manned space makes for great
I have a theory that the Monofuture™ is an artifact of human psychology, the part that drives us mad. Let’s not look at what the Monofuture is, but what it isn’t, and what it isn’t is human. That is to say, it isn’t the medieval world of hewn drinking halls, of redwood trees and leather jerkins, of soft beaches in bare feet, and the lush brake cane over your head in a field of swallows and fireflies. It’s the opposite of Miyazaki. That’s because the one thing they don’t have in Monofuture is the one thing they would HAVE to have, perforce, no questions: earth’s biome, of which we are symbionts. Any plausible spaceship, any plausible space station would have to be 90% soil, plants, and running water, because that is the only possible thing that would keep humans alive for more than a space vacation, the exact same way you have MSR heaters and Patagonia jackets and Sigg bottled water to ascend Mount Everest. But guess what? Humans can’t live there either, and they go home to Kathmandu, a messy, dirty, beehive of a city, filled with all the splendor and squalor humans have to offer, and eat gwaramari from a wok heated by yak dung shoveled off the street.
This is intolerable for the one thing Technofetishes desire above all things: not to be ‘human’. And all shrieking to the contrary, exactly as the Christian tradition they detest. Monofuture is heaven, perfect, ascetic, simple, two-dimensional even, with bright colors and soft harps and pale lights on everything, so unlike the world humans actually create and live in, where your food comes from the dirt pumped from your clogged septic system and always has. In that world, morality isn’t simple, it’s messy, dirty, confusing, and filled with disgusting things like men and women sharing fluids, with blood and gore to follow soon after the screaming as another confusing, uncertain life begins.
The human body understands this, even the human soul in the Great Mystery, but the human mind does not unless it is deeply integrated, because it can imagine a world without aching muscles and hungry worries over weather in a world it can’t control. What it misses in that is that the integration instead of rejection and separation leads to a deep unspeakable satisfaction with seeing, with feeling, with being, but one that only appears as the wheel turns from work to rest, and despair to good fortune.
That’s also why the Technofetishes of Monofuture also are the proponents of killing 4-5 billion on the planet for the good of Nature™…and mankind of course, having not the slightest problem with “killing the village to save it” because ultimately they hate humans, their own reflection, and the gruesome, deadly messiness of actual life, where lions devour zebras alive and screaming, and because you are an animal, you must as well. They are virulent biophobes, hating all that presently is, and see humans as not *just* separate from nature, which we are not, but that humans are not even subject to the universe of physical laws. Death? Doesn’t exist. Men and women? A primitive fantasy. Gravity, radiation, time itself? Fully optional in a video game reality. In fact, the only thing that does exist is the human ego, themselves, who are petty gods who can make the universe exist however they wish, just ‘cause they thought it yesterday. This is the artifact of the mind, the intelligence, the ego, is a small portion of what it means to be ‘human’, but has become the alienated, insane psychosis consequence of a culture that focuses on intelligence, technology, and mind at the expense of everything else, all neighbors, all gods, all physical supports, including sacrificing any sense of reality in its ego defense.
But there is an end to such psychotic madness: when they can no longer function or respond to outside reality, they are conquered, pillaged and killed by the yak-eating barbarians, who may not be smarter, but at least they’re not crazy and know how to use pointy sticks. And the wheel turns again.
I don’t know if you seen this, but even the most progressive people on planet Silicon Valley wunderkid and economy pundit (grow, grow, grow…) are getting worried that the progress is not sending its manna fast/widely enough:
.. so they propose Science of Progress, to put more progress into progress.
@Wesley Stine — re “At the most basic level, space colonization is an extension of the pioneering spirit – the desire to expand into a new and harsh environment.”
But always into an environment capable of supporting life from the resources at hand. I suspect that sustaining life on Mars is going to be a tough gig.
@Bird — re “I’m not much of a “peak oil” historian, but I don’t remember any concern about it until the first “oil shocks” in 1973.”
When I was 12, my parents got me a Replogle Globe, complete with a modest Atlas that fit into a slot in the globe’s base. The Atlas contained a section on the important resources in the various countries, including Oil production. The USA and the USSR were the largest producers at the time, and virtually neck and neck in oil production. I remember thinking “How long can this go on?”
I’m pretty sure that if a 12-year-old can wonder about this, a lot of other people were wondering about it also.
One point I often bring up to space junkies is that NASA was 15% of the federal budget during the space race. Now it’s a scant 0.3%. It really was a remarkable imaginative era. I can’t imagine another time in American politics where this kind of bipartisan collaboration could have existed. Alas it was a fart in the wind.
“Maybe somebody needs to translate more Japanese SF into English, so it can shake up the US market…”
Ah, but you have seen a little of the shake up already, even if it hasn’t been a major market factor.
I generally assume that if I want to read about something other than how the Lone Idealist sees Pointless Oppression/Conservative Superstitions/White People and has the bravery and compassion to blow the whole thing over by preaching the gospel of of “He Will Not Divide Us,” then the author has to be dead, Japanese, or you.
I know a number of people in my age group who don’t yet know that there are options like dead people and Founder’s House (I’m working on it.), and so exclusively read and watch translations from Japanese.
There’s a reason the anime avatars of the internet were so unenthusiastic when the only thing Clinton could offer was the chance for you and all your friends to play Lone Idealist without the risk of actually changing anything.
The death of the MonoFuture may be the feeling of angst going around the country of “losing our country”… The idea the voting generation grew up with is of the Myth of Progress whether Republican or Democrat, American MonoCulture headed to the stars… Egalitarian Globalization and peaceful love and harmony… and that is starting to fail… perhaps the termoil of a lot of the “identity” politics is the messy beginnings of sorting out new “cultures”. The younger generations are splintering the MonoCulture trying out new options… and as the younger generations often do, being annoying to us older folks.
The MonoFuture, MonoCulture, Great WorldWide American Dream may be fading… and a Retrotopian-style splintering is entering the zeitgeist… perhaps… Published on July 30th:… https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/political-confessional-the-man-who-thinks-the-u-s-is-better-off-as-a-bunch-of-separate-countries/
I have read an awful lot of “Star Trek” novels over the past three years, and I do notice one thing: I don’t retain the stories that are told in them very well; in fact, they kind of seem to blur together after a while. And after reading this post, I suspect that this is because the sterile, perfect Monofuture of the “Star Trek” Federation has eliminated all privation and want, and those things form the bases of many of the struggles and dramas that make life real. So that means a lot of the stories you read in such a book series are going to be about things that probably wouldn’t ever happen in the life of an ordinary person. While this does certainly have some entertainment value, it also leaves relatively limited room to maneuver story-wise if the franchise in question is going to keep cranking out a long series of books that the publishers want to keep people buying!
I started to read Dune, and it zipped right along for a while, interesting idea and a good villain. Then Paul, the hero, fell in love, and everything came to a screeching halt, and I never did get back into it. Did Paul and his gf, whose name I forget, live happily ever after?
The best fictional romance I have ever encountered was in the movie “The Twilight Samurai” (nothing to do with teenage vampires). The worst was in one of the books in that 947-book series by Robert Jordan. One of the heroes, a werewolf, fell in love with a girl who was the biggest, er, female dog 🐕 you ever saw. I quit reading although there were some interesting ideas in the series.
Thank you for another thought provoking post. I’d like to push back against the idea that many people believe in a Monofuture™ in the stars, but I can’t. The Economist’s recent survey on “the next 50 years in space” and National Geographic’s cover article a year or so ago about how we’ll colonize Mars suggests you’re correct.
What percentage of the population (or groups of people) in the West do you think still believe in the Monofuture? Is it only people whose wealth has deluded them into thinking they can live without limits? I think that’s a pretty small subset of even wealthy people.
As for the end of the Monofuture in the minds of its believers, maybe there won’t be an identifiable event or series of events that leads to its demise. As resource constraints take hold, and making life livable on Earth becomes a priority, fewer and fewer people will be able to indulge in the Monofuture myth. People who advocate for the Monofuture will look increasingly detached from reality and eventually ignored by everyone who has other priorities. Like the industrial society that spawned it, the Monofuture myth will die a slow and ragged death. We’ll see.
The old space operas believed in historical cycles too. H Beam Piper, Poul Anderson, (even his pulpy Terran Empire series) The Mote in God’s Eye all assumed civilizations would crash and burn.
Apparently any concept of limits is genocide…
@ JMG, Skygazer
I don’t have any information on the UK, but this post discusses some of the competing narratives about wages in the US and has a graph from the BLS showing inflation adjusted wages going back to their peak in the 1970s:
Personally, I think the actual situation for many working people is even worse than the graph suggests because employees generally pay a much greater share of their medical expenses today than they did in the 1970s (at least in the US). Also, in many places, though not all, the cost of housing has outstripped inflation adjusted wage growth by a significant margin.
Hi Mister Nobody,
I haven’t read any Star Trek novels, but I had the same problem with Next Generation. If everything is perfect, how can the characters change and grow?
The conversation took place about 4 years ago, and on Google Chat, so it’s hard to really get the vibe of it (and the vibe would have been dimmed by the medium anyway) When I try to connect, the two feelings I get when I try to get are a sense of sad emptiness, like something missing, and the presence of something very sharp, metallic and cold. It’s been a few years, though, since we’ve spoken– I think he got wind that I voted for Trump, and stopped speaking to me over it. So it goes, these days…
Matt H., I think you’re dead-on about the country’s angst being due to the death of the Monofuture. My go-to good example of a Boomer is my grandma, who’s 79, and grew up just as the post-WWII boom was making everything look more and more electric and Monofuturistic. She remembers being promised Mars and Moon colonies and an escape from any kind of privation. Since 2016, she has spent every single day stuck in a feeling of helpless misery because for her the election of Donald Trump shattered that entire narrative in one fell swoop. Nowadays any time I have a conversation with her, I can count on about half of it being her obsessing over how evil Donald Trump is and whether there’s some way the fact of his election could be erased or undone.
She’s said, almost in so many words, that she feels deep sadness that the telos of the progress that was promised to her as she was growing up now seems to be permanently out of reach, and even more sadness that people in my generation will never get what she always assumed we would get. I try to comfort her by telling her that I don’t want that telos, that it seems shallow and pointless to me and I look to different things for fulfillment in life. That works a little, but you can tell she doesn’t quite believe that any other kind of future could be desirable.
Multiply her experience by the number of people who had similar childhoods, account for the extent to which they’re in charge of the country’s media and thus its narratives, and there’s your angst right there.
I can’t speak to the quality of the studies you’ve mentioned, but I have to point out one thing:
Astrology has been disreputable among the learned since the end of the Renaissance, when magic and occultism in general fell out of favor, long before the studies were performed.
More important, suppose the studies had gone the other way. Even then, astrology would continue to be rejected and the studies would be denounced as flawed or fraudulent. This is what happened to parapsychology, where effects like remote viewing have repeatedly passed double blind studies and yet the entire discipline remains in disrepute.
The skeptical response seems to have become, “They must be doing something wrong to get the results they’re getting, even though we can’t tell you what.” One rationalist has suggested that parapsychology be used as a control group for science itself, since they’re apparently not doing anything wrong but they’re consistently getting “false” results anyway.
So, I seriously doubt the studies have anything much to do with the continued rejection of astrology.
We don’t have problems with small hive beetles here in the north, but beekeeping companies do sell traps that you can use. Betterbee has a reusable one for $6.95 (plus shipping, of course) that you fill with vegetable oil.
Here’s some additional information on low-tech deterrents and traps that look helpful and easy to do: https://morningchores.com/small-hive-beetles/
I still have a wind-up watch, but the only ones I’ve seen available new are made in Russia. I have heard that nobody will fix Timex watches any more so I’ve stopped picking around flea markets looking for them.
There’s an American bluegrass band, Hayseed Dixie, that does covers of hard rock songs, including AC/DC, their name being a play on “AC/DC”. They’re good musicians, even if they ham it up in a sort-of ‘hee-haw’ style. I seldom listen to music, but I do like bluegrass.
Am I the only person here who does not read science fiction and never has? I’m thinking I may be in a party of one. Actually, I don’t read fiction of any kind, at least not since leaving the literature-heavy courses at college behind.
Re that article re genocide and limits
What a hit job. Not to mention the author obviously cannot read. Among other outright falsehoods given, the LTG charts never said anything about the end of civilization by the year 2000.
My summary of the piece: “We are the most awesomest species ever! So there!”
Puts the arrogance of Wilsonian Progressivism to shame. Alas, those of us familiar with the contours of the old stories know the gods tend to mete out the consequences of hubris…
I predict a Demifuture; namely half the Monofuture. We’ll get cool photos from deep space… taken by robots. There’ll be robots, but they’ll be artificially stupid. No flying cars, plenty of drones delivering packages. Smart new media, same stupid stories told on it. The same old mess and trouble, but on a higher level. People will remain people, but they’ll encounter genuine novelty.
It’s quite absurd that people in North America think that the US Canada and Europe will bring in nuclear fusion any day now as declining empires, while there are tech articles musing about the fact that the United States in particular is losing the fight for AI and 4G to China.
Sometimes you just have to chuckle.
A whole lot of interesting ideas here. Firstly why don’t those who want to go to Mars just damn well go. Can’t they crowdfund it or something? It will give those of us who stay a bit more breathing space and stop boring my socks off.
I don’t read sci-fi or fantasy although I have tried some and quite enjoyed it. I like a murder mystery partly for the puzzle and partly for the social history. I also read a lot of non-fiction but not in depth. Guess that makes me a dilettante or just plain shallow.
Lady Cutekitten re how did the story end. Just read the ending if you want to. I do.
Don’t make too many comments as I usually agree with a substantial amount of what is written here.
The technical stuff leaves me well behind although it is good that some people are interested and knowledgeable about so much.
Happy writing and reading.
I like the open tone of this blog and that is down to you, John.
I think Jasper is right about the Monofuture being a part of the transhumanist mindset. Untamed nature is kept safely outside of your bright, clean city. No dirt, bugs or the need to do any real sweaty work because robots are there to do it for you. I read that the loathsome Jeffery Epstein wanted to have his head and penis cryogenically frozen when he died, so that he could come back in the future as part cyborg and presumably continue his degraded behavior. Maybe transhumanists are somewhat sociopathic. Or do they just fear death?
Bryan, thank you for sharing the Gizmodo piece. Stuff like that goes a long way to show that, even if our technology turns out to be sufficient to keep people alive on Mars, their lives will still be tough, dangerous, and short compared to those of us who stay on Earth. When you look at all the downsides, very few people will WANT go through with switching planets.
Which brings us to a major sci-fi trope which, for obvious reasons, doesn’t figure at all into the rhetoric of people like Elon Musk, namely, the off-planet penal colony. That’s the premise Heinlen used in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and I’ve read sci-fi where the fact that the first arrivals in each new star system are “gulag ships” is so basic as to require no more than a sentence of elaboration.
Perhaps, then, a possible scenario for space colonization is that, a few centuries or millennia from now, a future technic civilization discovers some rare and valuable mineral that’s an order of magnitude more abundant on Mars than on Earth. Maybe it’s always been that way for geological reasons; maybe an earlier civilization simply wasted the Earth’s reserves; it hardly matters.
So they offer a way for high IQ criminals – or even just people who ended up in prison camps for having the wrong ethnicity or religion – to get amnesty if they’ll go to Mars and mine the stuff. A few adventurers go voluntarily, but life on Mars is so brutally dangerous that volunteers are always a slim minority. Because of all the radiation, life expectancies are about twenty years shorter than on Earth, but the authorities are willing accept that in order to keep the supply of those minerals flowing.
While I’m still at loggerheads with the Archdruid as to whether or not a spacefaring civilization is possible, I think that we are fully agreed that a techno-UTOPIA is straight out. Crank up the tech dial, and you will still have greed, slavery, imperialism, ethnic strife, forced migrations, and all the other unpleasant factors of human history which believers in Progress think will go away with time… but which won’t.
As a former Navy Logistician (I read Twilight’s Last Gleaming during a deployment onboard one of the ships that was sunk in the book!), I can attest to the sheer magnitude of the physical gymnastics required to keep a warship humming halfway across the plant. Expensive, important stuff breaks on a regular basis, and thank goodness we can get the stuff we REALLY REALLY need that we don’t carry onboard within a week or so. We also get more routine stuff like food and gas every 10 days give or take.
I can’t even imagine having to wait for nine months to get anything at all, and then what happens when something ELSE breaks two months later that wasn’t planned for in the first order…
I can easily foresee a future where we keep having to send ship after ship just to keep some elitist Martian colonists alive, while our dwindling oil supplies at home make the prospect exponentially more expensive in terms of EROEI. Eventually, people could collectively say “screw ’em” because they’re tired of giving.
I teach an entire course that’s devoted to critique of “there is only one (mono) future”. Students analyze retrofutures for their remarkable similarity to the future we imagine – and not the future we are in! They then consider alternate futures via “world building”.
A long discussion of “aliens” over the past 2500 years in this deck – https://drive.google.com/open?id=1jK8okTFnAp_BNg1Q8Svuc6w2ihXyHmNo
A discussion of the dangers of “tech tropes” here – https://drive.google.com/open?id=10uT0Jzo9kBiUTd_339LUWIDdT-fipSEj
Check out the latest hit job from the mainstream news media. They are claiming Congresswoman and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard is a Russian agent and an apologist for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad because she dared to challenge Kamala Harris on her track record as California attorney general in the Democratic Party presidential debate the other day. Earlier this week they were claiming Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is a “Russian asset”. I wonder who will be accused next? Its as if the liberal establishment has been channeling the ghosts of Joseph McCarthy and HUAC.
And then these people wonder why so many Americans despise and distrust the presstitutes of the MSM…
Hi Orthodox Spenglerian,
Everyone who’s not a Stalinist is a Russian agent. 🙄
This phone wanted to change “Orthodox Spenglerian” to “aspen period.”
JMG: You referenced the New Age movement as dissolving, and finished as a significant cultural force. A possible example of this is the history of the Renaissance Unity Church, formerly the Church of Today, in Warren, Michigan. They were a mega church in the New Age/New Thought movement, headed at one time by Marianne Williamson. They seemed to have gone through a crash, as they sold their building and are now holding services in a school. The CEO (not pastor?!) blames it on “…demographics and baby boomers aging. If you don’t adjust and figure out how to connect with communities, you’re in trouble…”
So they are downsizing due to a shrinking congregation and changes in worship habits. No admitting to a loss of faith in the narrative they preached. It also could be that, like a lot of Christian megachurches, they grew quickly under energetic, charismatic leadership (Williamson), and they experienced a decline after they lost that leader.
The local New Thought church in my hometown also moved. They had been in a nice, older church building they bought from a traditional Christian denomination. I visited there a dozen times or so about the time I left evangelical Christianity in the early 2000’s. It was a nice building, and the pews were quite full (the sanctuary probably could seat 200-250, if packed). It was in an older neighborhood near downtown, so you would think it would be convenient for the hipsters and urban progressives to walk to and visit the New Thought bookstore inside. The building is next to an expanding medical clinic, which could have had a need for that property and made the congregation an offer they couldn’t refuse, but when I looked up the new location, it just looked like an oversized ranch house that might have formerly been used for a small business as it did have a small parking lot. So I would guess that they had a shrinking congregation too, so this is not just a phenomena experienced by mega churches.
I just checked the twitter feed for Renaissance Unity, which is much underused as the last entries were in 2014. The entry for May 30, 2014 is “Things are only impossible until they’re not.” ~Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation, which I find very fitting for this discussion.
” I wonder who will be accused next? Its as if the liberal establishment has been channeling the ghosts of Joseph McCarthy and HUAC.”
Breitbart “News” is neither liberal establishment nor MSM. They are a far-right fake news outlet, formerly run by Steve Bannon. As such, they had a lot to do with Trump getting elected. Can’t blame this one on the ‘liberal establishment’.
I find it interesting that your grandma is so disappointed at the lack of progress. I am just slightly younger than her and had no such expectations. In fact I am surprised at how much easier and nicer life is than I expected.
However I don’t really understand the whole concept of progress but love the medical advances that have been made since they have kept me alive.
We all have to accept the times we are in and take the good with the bad.
Have noticed that British SF writers are less addicted to the monofuture. I sometimes frequent the blog of British “radical hard” science fiction Charles Stross’s (Charlie’s Diary). Although Stross has written plenty of transhumanist space operas, he is as skeptical as you are of notions like space colonization or of the technological singularity. Stross has a strong STEM background, and is fond of pointing out that most so-called hard science fiction involves a lot more hand waving and scientific inaccuracies than did old fashioned science fantasy, which usually presupposed only one or two implausible notions, such as “hyperdrive.”. Stross gets a lot of grief from his followers for his views .
I think I stumbled upon an interesting insight:
The fact of our times is the Boomer generation failed to do the work that they needed to save the next many generations from a truly wretched future we are in the midst of. Listening to devotees of the New Age and the Monofuture I keep on hearing the same basic refrain of ” I don’t need to do the work! The Space Brothers or Technology or Science of Cosmic Consciousness will save us!”
These philosophies then reiterate the refusal to do the work that the Boomer generation made. This also, has a more then subtle sense of entitlement as well. These futures or salvation or what have you are deserved. Why are they deserved by people who aren’t willing to do the work? The only answer is that they must be entitled.
This then gives a better understanding of the outrage culture that currents seems to hijack almost every human relationship. Why does everyone seemingly indulge in recreational outrage? Well, if one is untitled and can’t do the work then one becomes reduced to helplessness and throws a fit when reality refuses to obey.
My intuition is that the Monofuture is already dead to those who have lost their sense of cosmic entitlement. The Monofuture and related New Earths will abide en mass until people en mass lose the nasty case of entitlement blues that have been major cultural, political and economic realities since the Boomers turned their backs on their descendants future.
There’s a LOT of squirrelly deep state activity going on in Antarctica. They are quietly hiring all kinds of people for work down there. I don’t know what they found under the ice, maybe nothing, maybe something, but someone is bankrolling an expansion of human presence down there. Why, I’ll leave open for speculation.
As far as why the push for planetary exploration and colonization? It’s not completely rational, as you pointed out. I suspect it tickles some romantic bone in the collective human consciousness, at least the white people anyway. The black people on the other hand wrote about “Whitey on the moon”.
Brian, that’s the crucial point, of course — one of the basic rhetorical gimmicks used by proponents of the monofuture is to insist that anything else is a return to grinding poverty and misery, if not mass death. That’s why alternative visions are so important. Fleming’s a good source; on a more modest scale, have you by any chance read my novel Retrotopia? It’s an exploration along similar lines.
Arkansas, thanks for this; I’ll have to look into Löwith. Of course I have the advantage here of being an unbaptized heathen, so by his argument I can see more clearly… 😉 Glad to hear about the chickens; if you aren’t able to keep honeybees going, have you considered trying to foster bumblebees or one of the other local bee species, which can also keep you garden happy?
Your Kittenship, that would be an interesting tale. The Baptists and the shoggoths would have to work through their religious differences; shoggoths worship Nyogtha, The Thing That Should Not Be, and while they don’t have any trouble with other beings worshiping other deities, the Baptists might be disconcerted to find their polymorphous allies invoking what amounts to a quasi-biological artificial intelligence manufactured by the alien Elder Things back in the Triassic…
Walt, oh, I know the Monofuture has plenty of roots, and SF is as much a product of our collective obsessions as it is a source of them. It’s a field I know fairly well, though, as compared to mass media (or Sesame Street), which I barely know at all.
Carlos, I don’t pretend to understand why people think it’s a good idea to have everything connected to the internet. When I read about internet-connected toothbrushes, I was sure someone had come up with a great joke to make fun of the fad — and then found out otherwise. Sheesh.
Ivan, no argument there. Some psychologists talk about “provisional living,” the habit of putting off everything you want in life until you lose weight or get a better job or otherwise do something you probably aren’t ever going to do. The Monofuture is our civilization’s collective habit of provisional living — everything gets put off until after we have space colonies, which aren’t going to happen…
A Reader, Elon Musk is a very smart man, and one of the proofs of his cleverness is the way he’s gotten so many otherwise intelligent people to buy into his automotive Ponzi scheme by waving around the rhetoric of the Monofuture.
Tolkienguy, funny! I thought that was the Pentecostalist Singularity…
Dominique, and yet there are plenty of trends moving in the opposite direction. Owning a car has stopped being cool among teens of the working and lower middle classes; getting rid of smartphones and returning to flip phones or even land lines is a rising trend; e-books peaked and have become a niche market, and sales of print books have rebounded considerably — I could go on. The notion that the technosphere is autonomous and invincible is one of the standard bits of rhetoric used by the massive sales campaigns that try to convince people to buy into the technosphere. As for central Antarctica, no penguins live there — they’re entirely coastal creatures. The most complex life forms in central Antarctica are unusually rugged blue-green algae that manage a precarious existence in the upper layers of not-yet-compacted glacial ice.
KL, funny! Thank you.
Yorkshire, depends on how we treat the forests!
Mark, the Gospel According to St. Monty has more than a little going for it, no question.
Booklover, fascinating. SF may be returning to its roots.
Chris, yes, I figured I’d get some pushback from mentioning astrology. Au contraire, most people don’t discount astrology; the amount of money spent annually on astrological charts is considerably greater than the amount spent annually on the support of all the astronomical observatories in the industrial world, and the number of books published on astrology annually dwarfs the number published on scientific astronomy. It’s only within the relatively airtight bubbles inhabited by rationalist intellectuals that astrology doesn’t have a pervasive presence. As for those scientific studies, er, let me clue you into something: they were done by people who knew next to nothing about astrology. In fact, the most notorious collection of those studies — Objections to Astrology by Paul Kurtz et al.(1978) — is so bad that many schools of astrology assign it as required reading to their students, as it does an excellent job of proving that would-be scientific critics of astrology literally don’t know the first thing about the subject they think they’re criticizing, and that scientific dismissals of astrology are therefore based on ignorance and prejudice.
As for colonies in Antarctica, you’re rather behind the times there. Argentina and Chile both had extensive programs for quite a few years trying to establish self-sustaining colonies on the Palmer Peninsula, the least uninhabitable portion of Antarctica. It was because those colonies did so poorly that everyone agreed to sign the treaties you mention.
Warren, funny. I read the science fiction story on which that was more or less based when I was in my early teens. The movies really are in the recycling business these days…
David BTL, delighted to hear it.
Anthony, exactly! I can read a good space opera and enjoy the bejesus out of it; the mere fact that space colonization is no more realistic than, say, Middle Earth doesn’t make it any less fun as a literary device.
Wesley, I’d encourage you to reread Spengler. One of the things he points out is that the entire fantasy of endless expansion into infinity — the “pioneering spirit” you talk about — is unique to Faustian culture, and can be expected to go away as that culture finishes settling down into the rut of civilization. The laws of nature are what they are, and while it’s impossible to prove a negative, that’s a very feeble nail on which to hang the hope of some future expansion into hard vacuum full of gamma rays.
Phil H, well, whatever levitates your starship, I suppose. 😉
John, I ain’t arguing. I’m talking to that very small minority of our species that reads weekly blogs, though, and a great many of them are still stuck on the Monofuture to some degree or another.
Jamie, I didn’t know that about regolith. Many thanks!
Jasper, nicely phrased. Have you read Giambattista Vico? What you’ve described is exactly what he talks about in The New Science in terms of “the barbarism of reflection” and the descent of nations into madness at the end of their historical trajectory.
Changeling, thank you for this! I’ve rarely laughed so hard. “We need more progress! Quick, get a hundred gallons of it!”
Dave, that’s an excellent point. How many government programs would have to be shut down to pay for that 15% today?
Rohan, you wrote:
“I generally assume that if I want to read about something other than how the Lone Idealist sees Pointless Oppression/Conservative Superstitions/White People and has the bravery and compassion to blow the whole thing over by preaching the gospel of of “He Will Not Divide Us,” then the author has to be dead, Japanese, or you.”
Thank you! That’s very high praise. I’m glad to hear that people are beginning to notice the existence of dead people and Archdruids; Japanese literature is wonderful, but there are other good options, too.
Matt, that may well be an important part of it.
Mister N, I recall the Star Trek fanfic novels of an earlier day; some of them were pretty fun, not least because they didn’t wallow in the Federation as Utopia. I’m sorry to hear the current crop isn’t as good.
Your Kittenship, the first half of Dune is better than the second, no question, but remember that you can always skip the boring parts. As for Robert Jordan, I put his opus on the list of things to get to when they’re finally finished, and then never got to it.
Ryan, I don’t have a clear sense of the number of believers; I just hear Monofuture propaganda constantly being rehashed online and in the media, with very few dissenting voices (and most of those get shouted down frantically). It would be interesting to have some good statistics.
Engleberg, a lot of people in mid-20th century America read Spengler and Toynbee, and the idea of historical cycles was still acceptable in public discourse until not that many decades ago/. Another example to add to your list is James Blish’s Cities in Flight series, which is explicitly Spenglerian.
DT, I expect to see much, much more of this sort of thing now that Greta Thunberg et al, have started demanding that privileged environmentalists actually walk their talk. The whole concept of environmentalism will be declared evil and racist and Nazi-oid in three, two, one…
Ryan, many thanks for this.
Paradoctor, it’s certainly a more plausible prediction than the Monofuture!
J, it sure beats pounding your head against a wall.
JillN, thank you. There was an attempt to crowdfund a Mars expedition a little while ago; it declared bankruptcy earlier this year.
Joel, I’m delighted to hear that you made it safely off the ship before I sank it! 😉
Pindlespace, I’m delighted to hear that, too. Please keep teaching that course, and if you’d consider writing a book on the subject I’d be even more pleased.
Spenglerian, of course. Gabbard doesn’t support the endless wars that Democrats oppose on paper but support in practice, so she’s already got the Party apparatus against her, and to have her point out the awkward realities of Harris’ career in ways that will make it all but impossible for the apparatchiks to put Harris on the ticket — Biden/Harris is pretty clearly the lineup the DNC wants — was icing on the cake. If she and Marianne Williamson both keep pushing, and the DNC uses the same trickery to get their preferred ticket they used for Clinton in 2016, the Democratic Party may suffer one of history’s great electoral smackdowns in 2020.
Joy Marie, I’ve heard similar accounts from other New Thought and New Age churches. It’s going to be a long lonely road for those who keep the New Age faith.
Dave, I think living in the remnants of a collapsed empire might be helpful for that! Stross is good; those of his pieces I’ve read — I’m thinking especially of “A Colder War” — were very well crafted.
Violet, that’s uncomfortably plausible.
Owen, my guess is that there’s surreptitious prospecting for oil and mineral resources in violation of the treaties. As shale oil begins running short, the quest to find some other source of fossil fuels will get desperate…
For what its worth, I’m back in the software development world, at a company that actually does something “useful”, and none of the developers really believe in progress – we’re here to make money automating low-skilled, high-pay jobs while the getting’s good. I feel a little guilty, but rental vacancies in my city are dropping below 1% due to deliberate government policy, and I’ve got to save up a down payment for a house before my city becomes a smaller version of Vancouver or Toronto.
Well, so far nobody has mentioned the just concluded mega-climate-palooza conference in Italy to which wealthy elites and self-proclaimed eco-conscious celebrities traveled in their private jets and private yachts. There has been, thankfully, a backlash against these do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do environmentalists. The whole affair is so frankly over the top that I can’t believe that any of the participants or organizers are so clueless that they couldn’t see the rank hypocrisy of the event.
In more honest times the monofuture, singularity, and the verity of other words used to describe this vision was called simply imperialism. It is a whitewashed version of the governing principal of the last 300 years. The underlying principal behind the proposals of the worshipers of progress is that they get to do whatever they want and everyone else gets to bear the costs. The advances of the past three hundred years have been totally carried by a very large percentage of people, and I’ve heard more than once someone utter the phrase “well, that’s the cost of progress.’ Essentially anyone who stands in the way of progress is mowed down, buried, and forgotten. The violence inherent in the monofuture, always seems to be covered up by this idea that it’ll be better further on.
JillN, She’s happy with the progress we’ve gotten, and frequently talks about the great strides made in women’s rights and availability of food (her mother grew up on a hardscrabble farm outside the Badlands as one of twelve siblings, so nothing in grandma’s household was wasted). She’s also very pleased that water supplies are now fluoridated. What she’s unhappy with is the fact that the progress seems to be halting or reversing before reaching its natural end state in space.
I suspect she believes in a submyth that JMG has previously dismantled—that you can’t have a return to one aspect of the past without bringing back the past complete, exactly as it was. Trump’s apparent general disdain for women (Exhibit A, Access Hollywood tapes) accentuates that fear, presaging for her a return to good-old-fashioned 1940s sexism.
Because the Monofuture exists on a linear timeline, any movement not towards it is movement toward starving in caves where thick-browed Neanderthals drag women around by their hair.
Hi JMG, et al. First time commenter and recovering monofuturist here…..
I have experienced an increasing anxiety in the last few years as it became obvious to me the predicament that our civilization is in (I wish I hadn’t had children right before coming to this realization, but I digress). I discovered JMG about a year ago and I found it refreshing to hear a voice for the things I was feeling–that our civilization is not sustainable, and that collapse is nigh. I actually find JMG’s notion of a slow collapse to be comforting, I still fear the quick disaster, mainly with regards to the state of the climate. We truly are a mad species…to know what is happenong and continue on happily emitting anyway. Trump infuriates me with his climate denial….but functionally its not really different from the acknowledging it but doing nothing anyway, aside from consumerist greenwashing. I actually think humans can survive a 5C world (mammals thrived in the PETM, which was 7-8C), but getting there is gonna be ugly.
Just curious how others on here feel about climate change. It’s the one thing that truly keeps me up at night.
@ Owen and JMG:
Or maybe they finally found that secret underground Nazi colony in Antarctica that conspiracy theorists have been talking about for decades…
Breitbart is no more “fake news” than most of what passes for journalism in the mainstream press these days. You may recall some of the discussions we have had on this blog about Pravda on the Potomac (AKA the Washington Post) or Izvestia on the Hudson (AKA the New York Times). I look at a wide range of sources, from Breitbart on the right to the Huffington Post on the left and many, many more. As for this particular story, the article from Breitbart was quoting stories that appeared in other news sources, particularly NBC.
Of course you are – as usual – correct. Here is my question, and I sincerely do not have an answer: What about UFO’s? Is there any sensible answer other than that they are an illusion?
Apropos of Robert Jordan, reading his series The Wheel of Time (which was finished a few years back, though unfortunately not by Jordan himself since he passed away ) is what led to me taking my first steps away from materialist atheism and developing an interest in philosophy, both of which would shortly afterwards lead me to discovering Spengler’s Decline of the West and then the Archdruid Report, so I probably wouldn’t be reading this blog if it weren’t for those books. What’s more, as I read your blog, I found that a number of the themes you write about were present in Jordan’s books as well, including the understanding of history as a cyclical process rather than a constant upward or downward trend.
Also, it might interest you to hear that Jordan was a mason and that, going by online comments from other masons that I’ve read, his series incorporates a lot of masonic symbolism.
@ Caryn Banker….
I actually took my first dive into the Amazon Consumerverse 3 weeks ago. I am reworking my 13 year old Toyota FJ Cruiser, which is still going at 324K miles! SWMBO has had an Amazon acct for a few years, and I used it to order things like bolts, speakers, wiring, etc that I needed to use.
There is NO WAY that their business model is sustainable in a future with high oil prices. I ordered about 30 widgets over 3 weeks – every one of them was a separate delivery. I am sure oil price plays into it, but I am thinking that Amazon makes more money selling our data to the various alphabet government agencies than they do retailing. Low prices are irresistible when cash is tight.
That being said, I intend to order things if their price is right – because the end of oil is within my grandkids sight – taking advantage of the relative abundance is common sense, especially as we are building for them. Were I you, I would give it a whirl. But realize that their online store is just as fraught with undersize hands (to make things look bigger) as McDonalds commercials. Always read the size dimensions when you order something unusual.
I hope I am around to watch things reverse themselves. When that wondrous “just in time” inventory mgmt ceases to work due to shipping expense, then we will see inventory builds required again, and local folks repairing things that were once thrown away. I recently grabbed 8 metal lawn chairs that the webbing had broken in, right from neighbors trash. I used scrap pallet lumber and made wood seats and backs to go on the chairs, and repainted them. They sold on Craigslist for $20 each…and took me a couple hours of relaxing work to remake and they will last a lot longer than plastic webbing.
@ JMG – I have to dream it up first, and am busy with one for Joel for another month or so of my miniscule spare time…LOL
“Ivan, no argument there. Some psychologists talk about “provisional living,” the habit of putting off everything you want in life until you lose weight or get a better job or otherwise do something you probably aren’t ever going to do. The Monofuture is our civilization’s collective habit of provisional living — everything gets put off until after we have space colonies, which aren’t going to happen…”
What makes this fascinating is that provisional living only works if the person in question knows the thing in question ain’t gonna happen. It’s why so many people who are out of shape will actually resist getting in shape: if they do that the entire system of provisional living will collapse on its own contradictions: “What? Working out doesn’t automatically mean I save money?”
Now, this thus has a rather odd implication, and it’s one that I can see now that I think about it: as the dream of space-flight gets further and further away, the utopian aspects of the Monofuture become more and more extreme, which has the odd effect, at least for a while, of making it more and more appealing even, as it drifts further and further away.
Perhaps the reason the Monofuture took shape when it did is that before that space travel seemed plausible, and so the idea that any society that did it must be a utopia was rightly dismissed as absurd: having space travel makes a utopia just as well as weightlifting pays off credit card debt.
As for what does it in, I had a horrible thought: it may be that what does it in is a moon-base. Watching everyone sent there die horribly, particularly if there’s an accident or mistake which strands them there, would probably do it.
I think you’re on to something there. It really is weird watching so many people insist that they deserve a future they did everything in their power to keep from happening……
Okay, also, seriously, did the trans-humanists have to borrow everything from Christianity? Christianity has its own set of collective provisional living tactics, and so naturally the trans-humanists had to borrow it for themselves.
I think I’d find the mythology of progress more interesting if it wasn’t so clearly derivative….
JMG wrote: “Tolkienguy, funny! I thought that was the Pentecostalist Singularity…”
Made me chuckle. In all seriousness, though, the main difference between Pentecostals and Southern Baptists is that the former speak in tongues, fall over in church, and do other weird things on Sunday, whereas a Southern Baptist service is much more sedate. Plus your average Pentecostal church has a few black/brown people, which is more than your average Southern Baptist church has. Beyond that, the two are basically identical.
Liberty University, easily the largest conservative Baptist school in the country, had an extensive relationship with Tim LeHaye (the Left Behind author) to the point that one of the largest buildings on their campus has his name on it.
Hey jmg, have you seen this?
Apparently that Epstein guy funded transhumanist organisations.
Something you said once on a podcast that always stuck with me is that “Druids think in threes.” I can’t help but feel that the contrasting photos that accompany this essay don’t work with the spirit of that statement as I understand it. You go to great lengths to undermine the Monofuture so the implication is that it’s polar opposite, as depicted in the non-monofuture photos, is the future. I think the future we are likely to find is somewhere in the middle. Neither all glossy prosperity or joyless squalor.
It’s interesting that you mention “the mean streets of Pittsburgh” because I live here. It is a quite nice and quite safe city – certainly much nicer and safer than other American cities I have lived in. This is not to deny the very real suffering of the many people who have never recovered from the steel mills but there seems to be a sense of community and decency that is lacking in truly desperate places like Detroit or obscenely wealthy places like San Francisco.
What’s also fascinating here is the diversity, stability and seriousness of the sustainability scene in this city, particularly when it comes to green buildings. Some of the movers and shakers are overly fascinated with high tech fads but many advocate practices that could have come from the pages of your own Green Wizardry.
I think it is from places like Pittsburgh that the ideas necessary for a “third thought” future might emerge.
I couldn’t have scripted it better but my tech startup work lunch convo went something like this:
Co-worker A: “Did you hear Bezos’ Blue Origin talk a while back? Really inspiring. Like, Earth is gonna be a national park and we’ll move industry to the moon.”
Co-worker B: “Where it belongs, bro. Also… like, personal space travel IS gonna happen in my lifetime.”
Co-worker A: “Virgin Galactic pre-sale was only 200k… Do-able.”
Co-worker B: “If we IPO soon (hur hur hur)”
Co-worker A: “I know it’d be a one way trip but I’d be so down.”
Co-worker B: “Totally. Where’s our robot servants already?”
I watched the entire presentation when I got home. Parts of Bezos’ presentation are so Tomorrowland they’re almost parody. That being said, he’s not stupid, obviously. He understands our predicament. He’s a high priest for Monofuture 2.0 and sees it as “Going to space to benefit Earth”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQ98hGUe6FM.
Justin, you do what you have to do. I’m glad to hear that the rhetoric of progress is starting to lose its grip.
Beekeeper, the thing that impresses me is that the media is actually talking about the hypocrisy. Watch — now that the well-to-do are being expected to change their lifestyles to match their supposed ideals, they’ll drop environmentalism like a hot rock. As I noted above, I expect to see environmentalism being denounced as fascist any minute now…
Varun, an excellent point. Still, one of your turns of phrase has me inescapably thinking of an anarcho-syndicalist peasant with a strong resemblance to Michael Palin shouting, “Now we see the violence inherent in the monofuture!” To which, of course, the mass media replies, “Shut up! Shut up!” 😉
David, I’ll be talking about that in detail in an upcoming post. The short form is that anthropogenic climate change is real, but it’s been turned into yet another excuse for masturbatory apocalypse fantasies. What we’re facing is a ragged series of local and regional climate shifts unfolding over a century or two, and as long as you’re (a) well above sea level and (b) don’t live in an arid region, you should be fine.
Spenglerian, hah! I prefer to believe that they’ve found the long-abandoned city at the Mountains of Madness, and will shortly be approached by a small group of shoggoths, who smelled mac and cheese cooking in camp and want to know if they can have some.
Ralph, funny you should ask that. I wrote a book on the UFO phenomenon, somewhat unoriginally titled The UFO Phenomenon, which managed to offend both sides of the conventional UFO debate — i.e., those who insist that all objects seen in the sky that the witness can’t identify must be alien spacecraft, and those who insist that all objects seen in the sky that the witness can’t identify were never there in the first place. There’s zero evidence that UFOs are alien spacecraft; there’s plenty of evidence that some people have actually seen odd things in the sky; there are various things that have been lumped together under the “UFO” label — and there’s a great deal of evidence that the US Air Force has deliberately managed the entire phenomenon, and faked a number of famous sightings. Their goal was to provide protective cover for formerly secret aerospace technologies, from high altitude balloons in the late 1940s through U-2 and SR-71 spyplanes in the 1950s and 1960s respectively, early spy satellites, and the first generation of stealth planes — do you remember when people suddenly started seeing UFOs that looked like black triangles? That was right around the time when the first stealth planes were in process, and those look like…
At any rate, I’m in the process of revising and expanding the book; it’ll be out next year, with even more evidence that UFOs are neither extraterrestrial spacecraft nor figments of the witnesses’ imagination. Stay tuned!
Valenzuela, fascinating. That’s the first positive thing I’ve heard yet about Jordan’s series; I’ll take that under consideration.
Oilman, oh, I get that. All in due time!
Will J, exactly. That’s why the Monofuture became so pervasive when it became clear that Mars is uninhabitable and space is full of hard radiation — once it was safely out of reach, the Monofuture became the perfect dumping ground for fantasies of a better cosmos. AQs for the derivative nature of the mythology of progress, Spengler talks about that — the science of each great culture is simply its religion with the serial numbers filed off, and abstract principles installed in place of mythic characters.
Tolkienguy, fair enough. That’s the end of Christianity that interests me least, and so I’ve never really followed up on it.
J.L.Mc12, yes, I saw that. Surprising? Not at all.
Feminism might have some future in an ecotechnic society – maybe. It has nothing to do with fundamentalism. It’s rooted in biology. Men and women are different – very different. It’s fossil fuels that has allowed people to be so delusional about the sexes.
But I do hope that some types of equality will stick.
Cob, excellent! I was wondering if anyone would catch that. Of course there’s a third option — and we get there by recognizing that the Monofuture is not going to happen and that what we got instead of it isn’t working either. BTW, I’ve spent time in Pittsburgh and the surrounding towns; there are some really pleasant neighborhoods there — I’m partial to places with rich ethnic identities, and you’ve got those on steroids — but there are also some very grubby stretches, the kind of thing you can’t avoid when your metropolitan area loses something like half its population. (You also need to rebuild your Amtrak station sometime — it’s a cramped, grubby mess, and could be made much more pleasant.)
Brian, Bezos isn’t stupid but he’s utterly detached from reality — one of the common occupational hazards of being insanely rich. I’m not surprised to hear that he’s preaching that particular pablum.
You mention a materialist pseudoskeptic takeover of science fiction in the 80s. Are there any particular names you associate with this?
Also, every so often I read articles by Kim Stanley Robinson about our environmental straits. He’s one of those who advocates for humanity moving into vast megacities. And in an article for the Sierra Club magazine, he advocates for a plan to pump seawater onto the plains of Antarctica, to prevent sea level rise. It would only take 7% of global energy output, he says, but I don’t know where he thinks that energy will be coming from, if not diesel.
Which is to say, KSR has a very strong realistic bent, but he keeps taking the techno-optimist bait. I can’t help but feel that when he talks about saving the environment, he’s really pleading to save industrial civilization.
I overlooked your sad news till just now when rereading to see what I missed. I am so sorry. I pray for your recovery and, if that’s not how it’s to be, I pray for a good death for you.
I happen to live in Baptist Central. They view the whole world as potential converts so they’re pretty friendly, inviting us all to potlucks and ice cream socials and movie nights and singles nights and marriage encounters and on and on and on. I see no reason they wouldn’t also view their funny-lookin’ neighbors as potential converts—after all, would shoggoth customs be all that much more puzzling to Baptists than the customs of people they encounter on their missionary trips? The shoggoths would probably wonder what the Baptists were on about, but what the heck, they’re nice neighbors and someone always brings macaroni and cheese to the potlucks. Thus I think the two groups could easily unite to solve the sinister mystery of whatever happened to the Second Baptist Church.
Think about it. First Baptist Churches sprout like dandelions in the U.S., but when have you ever seen a SECOND Baptist Church? There’s evil afoot, I tells ya!
Lady Cutekitten of Lolcat & JMG: The roots of the Baptists are right here in Divine Providence: the First Baptist Church was gathered in 1638 by Roger Williams, and First Baptist is still an active congregation. That’s the First Baptist Church in the Americas, the Mother Church of all the Baptist Churches.
What does that have to do with Shoggoths? Roger Williams believed in Soul Liberty: the right of anyone to worship as s/he chose. I think that would apply to shoggoths as well: it certainly applied to the Narragansetts and Wampanoags. That is the foundation of the colony of Rhode Island, a place where : “a flourishing civil society may best be maintained with a full liberty in religious concernments” (2nd Charter for the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 1663). Of course, the Baptists have since split into many groups, especially in the runup to the war of 1861.
Williams also believed that he knew the Bible very well: in fact, better than you, and he was glad to tell you. Famously, he is claimed to have rowed from Providence to Newport at age 68 to debate George Fox, founder of the Quakers, and published his argument against Fox in “George Fox Digg’d out of his Burrowes or an offer of Disputation on fourteen Proposals made this last Summer of 1672 unto G. Fox then present on Rode-Island in New England”
Meanwhile, I keep thinking of the ruddy face of Preem Palver, First Speaker and farmer at the star’s end. Somehow, farmer seems to be his more important role.
Jmg, it is a surprise for me since I used to wonder about this exact scenario being used to make transhumans.
When I was younger I used to be transhumanist, and one of the main reasons I stopped was because one of the only ways I could think someone could do the work needed to genetically engineer humans was to recruit or trick poor, 3rd world women and offer them money or a better place to live in exchange for being used to make transhumans.
Seeing this news article saying that Epstein was planning something similar, but far more perverted, was a fair shock for me.
The idea that someone had the same idea as me, but tried to enact it instead of reject it like I did is very strange.
Off topic, but The Baptist Singularity is written!
The only place I can think of that might publish it is Mythic, and even if it were ready to publish (It’s not: rough drafts are horrid), I just missed the deadline. Oh well, I’ll see if I can find someone to publish it, if not, well, I have a submission ready for next reading period.
On topic: It’s just occurred to me that the end of the Monofuture will also see inter-generational conflicts reduce. One of the things which has so many of my generation (I’m mid-20s) infuriated (myself sometimes included) is that the people who fracked us then turn around and blame us for it. It’s tedious, and it gets old really, really quick. The one which gets under my skin the most is the people who insist I have it better than they did, and then insist it’s my own fault if I don’t agree with them enthusiastically enough.
This isn’t a “woe is me” thing, but it’s noting that the reality is that being young today isn’t the utopia so many baby boomers seem to think it is (or at least pretend to think it is), and my generation seems to get that. The last holdout for the myth of progress I know who’s close to my age is somewhat isolated, since most of us think she’s fairly crazy. She’s nice enough, but believing in progress makes many of us question her sanity.
This ties into the Monofuture in an interesting way: if things have been getting better, then it’s only if you’re flawed in some way (almost always a bad case of shadow projection too) that you don’t get to partake in the glorious progressive world. This means we must have it at least as good as people in the 1960s did, and they had it good, so what are we complaining about?
Wipe out progress and the notion that my generations problems are our fault vanishes: they’re the result of past decisions, or the will of the gods, or whatever it is that society decides explains it. This will be far easier for us to stomach, and so inter-generational conflict will die down some.
It will remain for quite sometime: I’m convinced many of my generation will reach old age and still be ranting about how the boomers fracked us: I think we may very well see retirement funding stripped to the bones as my generation exerts power and seeks revenge; but without a potent emotional force which requires elders to blame the young for their problems, I think it’ll be easier for generations to productively relate to each other.
I could say some negative things about it if you want 😉
There’s quite a few characters and plotlines that drive me crazy, particularly in the middle third of the series–a.k.a., “The Slump”–but I still found it very much worth the time (and money) invested.
I keep hearing people repeating “the US is the world’s largest crude oil producer”. Seems like pure bull/fake news to me, but a quick internet search reveals that it has allegedly been so since 2018.
Even if the US is somehow finding lots of crude oil (maybe because Alaska is frying like an egg?) this news reminds me of when Sara Goldfarb starts happily quaffing prescription diet pills in Hubert Selby Jr.’s novel Requiem For A Dream without realizing they are highly addictive uppers.
You all are far more well-versed on the Peak Oil subject than I am — can you please suggest some talking points when someone says “the US is the world’s largest oil producer”?
Hi Nothing Special,
Wilt thou, varlet, insult disco? Fie upon thee and thy “music.”
(I’m old, I figure I may as well sound like it!)
@Jasmine, Lady Cutekitten, et. al. re: CSICOP
BTW, it’s pronounced “psi cop”,
as in a self appointed posse to police “psi” – anything to do with psychic/spiritual/parapsychology.
One of their former members recounts their bungled “debunking” of the “Mars effect”,
which caused him to leave/get tossed out, in this, originally published in “Fate” magazine.
sTARBABY (theme based on the folk tale “Tar Baby”) by Dennis Rawlins
For another examination of CSICOP, see the chapter on that in the book
_The Trickster and the Paranormal_, by George P. Hansen
A great read in any case if you have any interest in anything paranormal.
I’m often leaving critical comments here, so have to say, this is great writing. This area of focus is why I follow your output John, even though I disagee with much else that you say.
I recently saw a tweet by Aaron Bastani citing the falling life expectancy in developed countries as evidence that ‘capitalism is failing’. His (now published) book, Fully Automated Luxury Communism – as absurd a piece of technophillic ‘socialist’ hopium as you will ever likely come accross, is well reviewed here:
On the intersection of occult interests and sci-fi surely L Ron Hubbard was worth a mention ?
You can add me to the list of folks who’ve never really read sci-fi, so you can round that up to 2. I’m a non-fiction guy. Although our host’s fiction is very good.
That said, my librarian wife just scored a hardback copy of Heinlein’s “Friday” which seems to be a whopper of a tale so far. Great Tomorrowland cover art for sure!
And I intended to post that climate summit article this morning, but I see you beat me to it….what an insane bunch of hypocrites. Do they really not see it??
Re climate change
FWIW my take is summarized more or less like this:
It is real and human activity is a contributor. There’s already massive disruption “baked in,” regardless of what we do at this point, though we can make things less-bad by acting prudently. But life will survive. Humanity will survive. Modern industrial civilization, however, will not. And we need to accept this.
JMG, the belief in the Monofuture, in technology and rationalism is still very much entrenched in Star Trek. The phenomena I mentioned are probably simply the return of the repressed. Another fascinating scene from one of the newer cinema episodes is where a space habitat, where there is nothing but buildings and peoples, whose clothing and demeanor are clearly salary-class, suffers an accident or an attack and a big hole is ripped in the shielding of it.
Re the Monofuture and Empire
I have to agree with Varun’s observation of the link between the imposition of a homogeneous vision on the world and the imposition of a single economic and political system on the world. The first is an ideal; the second, a manifestation of that ideal in gritty, bloody reality. Both are based on a foundation of moral and (self-)-righteous platitudes. Both are the product of arrogance and hubris. Both are ruthless, inhumane, and antagonistic to human freedom. And, fortunately, both are doomed to failure–although the cost of that failure can be terribly high.
Thanks for the link. I expect you are right about medical expenses, although that does not apply to the UK.
Then there is the small matter of inflation. The site says the figures are “inflation-adjusted“, which sounds fine – until you discover how inflation is actually calculated. The effect will be multiplied all through the figures.
“Phil H, well, whatever levitates your starship, I suppose. 😉”
Well, it was 20 years ago, a flashback to youthful Sci fi and some years before I started reading a certain Archdruid. However for a short while I enjoyed being lost the other side of the Universe with well-meaning Americans and their trick photography. I am sure Antarctica actually would be more fun, especially if I knew I could leave anytime and still had a place to go back home to. 😉
Hi John Michael,
I followed last week’s discussion which went all over the shop. Thanks for providing such a fascinating ‘pub’ to hang out at and with which to discuss ideas and beliefs.
Chipmunks, and err, not to dispute you, but my money is on the rats. They’re good. And if chipmunks are as challenging as the rodents, please keep them restrained to your part of the world.
I tend to feel that cycles fit the observed world far better than the sort of linear trajectory that the Monofuture (like the term by the way due to the subtleties contained in the words) promotes. The inverted bell shaped curve (such as the Hubbard curve) better fits how things work and it can be observed. Of course, the curve can be a bit scary because if it represented a persons life, because well, it is inescapable that our own demise is baked into the far end of the curve. But then that is how this thing called life works.
You know, when I contemplate the matter, it seems that in choosing a linear trajectory for a belief system, it sort of takes out all that unpleasant having to maintain a personal relationship (Imagine that!) with a deity and then they hand over their free will in order to further build upon the already well worn track. It is sort of the same thing with the Monofuture. Hmm, I’m going to have to cogitate upon this matter further.
PS: Show don’t tell! 🙂 Ah, the contrast is not so good. Top stuff.
*furiously scribbles down sci fi reading suggestions*
The original series of Star Trek dabbled in utopian dream space, but was not consistently commuted to the notion that humanity had over come its foibles. Those dreams were but an under current in a hand full of episodes, but the series famously gained much of it following after it had aired. In the years that followed those aspects of the show that did dream of a better humanity got lifted to mythic import, and many years later when the creator, Gene, got a chance to make a second series he had become drunk on the kool aid and things got strange.
The Next Generation of Star Trek is the cultural milk I was raised on, it ran for seven seasons, and Gene was very active in the first two seasons, leaving more freedom to other writers and producers as old age did its thing. Here is the interesting thing, the first two season have aged horridly, baring a couple of fun tribble style escapism episodes the drama in the first couple season falls very flat. There is a reason. A weird wild reason. Gene, by this point, had reasoned that in the 24th century humanity would have evolved so much that none of the human characters would disagree with each other or have any conflict other that what was required to stop the aliens who were being jerks. No conflict between central characters does not make good drama. There were exceptions, my boys Data and Worf were both non human and got to have interesting conflicts, but the rest of the cast just kinda did their jobs and agreed with the wisdom of the captain.
As Gene aged and other writers took back the helm these problems were mitigated and they managed to turn out a fair number of episodes I still cherish. A couple were even interesting sci fi. Characters started to flesh out a little better as writers started to treat them as human again. In future series inter character conflict would continue to grow, in the modern day reaching cringy soap opera levels.
For my taste the third series Deep Space 9 was the best balance on that trend, and it had some very pointed send ups on the utopia in the sky myth.
The origional series and early TNG both strike me as stories of a morally superior people in the form of “The Earthman’s burden”.
JMG & fellow ecosophians,
I am pleased to have an announcement to make. Not on todays topic, but on one that is related to things discussed here & Greeen Wizardry…it’s about Shortwave Radio.
As many of you know my first love in radio is for broadcasting, and then I came to be a ham after spending over a decade of time programming and hosting various shows at WAIF, Cincinnati 88.3 FM (where I still fill in on occassion for Trash Flow Radio -a Saturday afternoon splurge of punk, indie, outsider, and experimental music). It had always been a dream of mine to have a radio program go out on the shortwaves, and now that dream is coming true.
Last year I made a friend in England through the community surrounding the SWLing post blog ( https://swling.com/blog/ ) when one of my “Radiophonic Laboratory” articles was cross posted there a SWL (shortwave listener) there named Pete Polyank from England contacted me about the article and we began communicating. A friendship was struck up around several other shared interests (including punk, dub music and gardening) and I encouraged him to get his ham radio license. At the new year he took a class and got his ticket and has since been on the air across the pond. Radio has a way of encouraging friendships and that’s one of the things I love about all the aspects of the radio hobby. (see Pete’s gardening & reggae/dub website here: https://weedsuptomeknees.wordpress.com/ )
Pete was also friends with a ham in New Hampshire named Frederick Moe who has spent a lot of time in the trenches of broadcast radio since the ’70s. Frederick decided he wanted to start up a shortwave program, using some of the time slots made available by German SW station Channel 292 ( http://www.channel292.de/ ) on 6070 khz. He recruited Pete to produce a segment for his show Free Radio Skybird. Later Pete introduced me to Frederick via email and Frederick invited me to produce a segment. My segment will present some of the music I’ve been writing about in my Radiophonic Laboratory articles (available here: http://www.sothismedias.com/the-radiophonic-laboratory.html ).
The first episode I am a part of airs this Sunday August fourth at 1900 UTC, 3 PM EST. Since the broadcast is coming out of Germany, the best way to listen will probably be via a Web SDR (software defined radio) of your choice, though you could try using your standard SW radio -though I’m not thinking propagation conditions will be favorable -but you never know. I like using the web SDRs at https://sdr.hu/ .
DJ Frederick’s Free Radio Skybird returns to the shortwaves on Sunday August 4th 2019 via http://www.channel292.de/ on 6070 kHz at 1900 UTC (3pm EST).
With a mixture of features and music, the hour transmission will include our friend One Deck Pete’s “Soul on shortwave” and my own first episode of the Radiophonic Laboratory ! This segment will feature the works of F.C. Judd the British ham, radar technician and audio explorer.
Who doesn’t love 7-of-9?? Yowza!
Welcome! I agree and can relate to your experience. Finding this blog and JMG’s calm, very realistic understanding of what we are seeing and experiencing in the long and fractal collapse was equally very comforting to me as well. It’s not the lie that nothing is wrong, ‘keep calm and carry on’ even as we see and know that is not true; and it’s not ‘hide-under-the-bed-the-zombie-apocalypse-is-coming!’ It gels with what we perceive around us.
I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the old Archdruid Report one week when the topic was titled “The Butlerian Carnival”, a truly uplifting discussion of how ‘grass-roots’ people were/are already quietly circumventing the failing economic system that is not working for them, and increasingly, many of us, by creating, salvaging, bartering, doing their own thing in terms of trading goods and services. Humans are creative creatures and this stuff is FUN! I’d highly recommend to you to order the Archdruid Report in print and take your time reading all of it. Take your time, it’s enjoyable. It helps immensely, not only in information and clarity, but it is uplifting. I don’t think I would have started my happy little furniture salvage/refurbishing business without this influence.
As to your question on personal thoughts and feelings on Environmentalism: My take is that first – you do what you CAN do, in the way you personally live and organise your own life, as well as your commitment/involvement with your community/society – voting, nagging your Congress-critters and local authorities, speaking out, even things like beach or park clean ups help and help influence your friends and families. BEYOND THAT: I know this may not be popular, but I personally think you have to compartmentalise it/think about it like you would think about the Yellowstone Caldera blowing or an asteroid hitting Earth. If it happens we all die. There is nothing, nada zippity-do-dah we can do about it, so make peace with your life and maker and let it go. For me, that’s actually been very freeing to allow me to do what I CAN do and stop trying to fix something I can’t.
Finally – I also have kids, (now grown and flown) and I do not see the choice of having children / creating the next generation as a unwise or regrettable move. It depends on how you prepare them for the future. The loss of the Monofuture fantasy or current extravagant lifestyles does not mean life will be doom and gloom. They CAN contribute and experience joyous lives without those.
@Oilman – AhAAAAH! Both really good ideas. (I love the re-design idea for the lawn chairs, I may try that.
And it has hazily occurred to me also to just stock up on these things. In my sander-pad search, I read other handy-people’s reviews and apparently these little suckers do just wear out periodically, so yes – good tip. I’ll build a little stash of them.
For those interested, with a general connection to the topics discussed on this blog, I watched a nice documentary on Arte, titled “Humans – Destroyers of Earth”. I covers basically the “conquest” of nature, by man, of course. You can watch it at the link below, until 28 august.
“sleep furiously”? Have you seen the film?
Not sure how I might tie this into the week’s post, but nonetheless thought you’d be interested:
The transformation of the parties is well underway. The next question is: when do the non-Trump GOP folks begin showing up within the Democratic ranks?
I wonder if this might be enabled by the dropping of environmentalism as a major platform plank, as you anticipate in the comment thread. That could provide space for former GOP lawmakers to align with a business-as-usual Democratic establishment on other policy issues, such as economic globalism and American exceptionalism.
Dear JMG (and others) –
I think there may be a generational gap between people raised on the Monofuture (Gen X / Boomers), and the rest of us who came of age during the great crash (Gen Y – Gen Z).
For Gen Y – Gen Z we have mostly been raised on dystopian fiction, quite similar to the narrative that you point out here. If there WAS utopian thinking it was around the “inconvenient Truth” era of “Think Global, Act Local”. Prioritizing thinking global fits perfectly into the Social Justice lens – fighting grand fights and crusades against racism or sexism while not having the wherewithal to organize for economic or political power – since that would require thinking local first. The rise of the internet and social media also shifted focus of our social lives from local clubs and organizations who could make a difference at home, to macro-scale “cultural” issues like you see getting waged on Twitter daily. Compare this blog itself to AODA as an organization – the blog is really more “global thinking” about culture and AODA is more “practical” – building coalitions, friendships, and strong ties.
The most “futurist” Gen Y subcultures I know are either (1) in the “effective altruism” / “rationality” community who mainly just want to help around the edges with donations to the poor, or (2) the socialists (e.g. jacobinmag.com) whose view of the future is less techno-solutionism but rather just good governance that doesn’t leave society to careen into a dumpster. I know your preferred form of action is “lead by example” not “get involved in politics”. But at least at a local level, organizing anything is inherently political (as you discuss wrt the breakup of the Golden Dawn).
The “dark enlightenment” alt-right futurists seem to have converged on a “survivalist” dystopian world-view:
“passivism is the official (insofar as a distributed movement can have official positions) policy of nrx. In short, there’s no need to make things worse, instead you should focus on your family’s wellbeing during the collapse.”
Thank you very much for your work. It is truly a service.
If I may offer a counterpoint here – even the original Star Trek, as simple a vision of the Monofuture as any, placed a nasty dark age between the present day and the optimistic future it portrayed. It seems to me that what happened in the ’80s was that science fiction stopped focusing on eventual aspirations and got concerned with short term challenges, like a farmer making no plans for the spring before he knows how much seed corn will be left. In that sense one could say that the Monofuture ended with the rise of cyberpunk as a genre, but that seems oversimplified to me – aspirations don’t really die so much as change or get buried. Some of my favorite Sci-fi these days ends with some variation on the hero declaring ‘Now that Evilcorp is defeated, we can finally build that spaceship!’ (A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer is an enjoyable example of this trope. I imagine Stephenson might be better-liked than most Scifi authors in this milieu).
My prediction would be that the Monofuture, such as it is now, will last roughly as long as Faustian civilization. If Faustian Civilization’s ‘great mystery’ is the striving for infinity, then it will consider that mystery unsolved while colonies on other worlds remain out of reach. Faustian civilization may die or mutate, and the dream die or mutate with it; or it may achieve its dream, and die or mutate shortly after; but I can’t imagine one outliving the other by much. Suppose for example that some bright young thing at CERN published a method for teleporting any distance for the price of a cup of coffee. I imagine in that case, our interest in a Mars colony would fade very quickly indeed. After all, before Antarctica could be reached with relative ease, Faustian civilization was obsessed with planting a flag there as well. But a civilization built on crossing boundaries doesn’t seem likely to make an exception for gravity wells.
It’s a curious question to contemplate, what happens to a civilization’s aspiration during a dark age. Certainly, Magain civilization did not give up its faith in the Son of Man’s return because of a few missed prophecies, but it probably lead to a deeper questioning of what stood behind and within its utopia. I can see why you find most imaginings of the coming period tiresome, given how heavily those stories lean on the gadgetry, but it’s a fascinating era to explore all the same.
Here is one of the roadblocks that prevents clear thinking on the subject of our future:
Elizabeth Warren (in the July 30 Democratic debate): “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do.”
People want leaders to lead them into a progressive and glorious future. We live in an age when the only thing for honest leaders to do is to explain to people that “no you really are not going to get your shiny monofuture”. But that message can’t win reality shows (… I mean elections). So people who want to lead us have to develop a variety of deceptions to attract support without talking about the big picture and the real limits we face. After reading your blog, one starts to see the insanity of the “progressives” trying to save the environment from the “conservatives”.
Data Point: cataloging some Scottish genealogy books this morning got me interested in looking up the slums of Glasgow. I found this article from 2015 that compared the housing crisis in the slum neighborhood of Gorbals in the 1970s to what was happening when the article was written. Answer: some strides in social welfare, but it wasn’t the promised monofuture. Projections don’t make it look like it will get better either.
“Although unsuitable housing is no longer as visible as when Hedges took the photos [in the 70’s], the housing crisis in 2015 is just as insidious. Current health and safety legislation wouldn’t allow demolition teams to turn up at a tower block where people were still living, but at the end of last year Scottish Labour’s former housing minister warned that Scotland is facing its largest housing crisis since the end of WWII, with the potential of a shortfall of 160,000 homes by 2035.”
JMG, I’ve always considered Bacon’s New Atlantis (1626) to be the foundational fictional account of the monofuture; baked in right from the start of modernity’s epistemological project of progress! As for the inevitable reaction, look no further than Rousseau’s heterodox and inflammatory reply (1750) to the Academy of Dijon’s question “Has the restoration of the sciences and arts tended to purify morals?”
Please don’t throw all the cyberpunk babies out with the great unwashed masses of monofuturist SF.
While Bruce Sterling can get a bit gizmocentric at times he also has a very nuanced way of showing the effects of global weirding. This is best evidenced in his 1994 novel Heavy Weather which is about a SFnal F-6 tornado caused by a shift in the movement of the jet stream (a superstorm that could happen. Just remember the polar vortex that hit the midwest this past winter). His other book Distraction from 1996 shows a political scene that looks like it came out of today’s newslines.
Rudy Rucker is also a favorite SF author who came up in the late 70s & early 80s. As a mathematician with a metaphysical bent, I think he escaped some of the monofuturocity of other SF writers of the time and is more in line with the classic era. His works often have psychokinesis, telepathy, giant ants, hollow earths, mathematical fifth dimensions and alternate realities. When he extrapolates on tech it is often just to write a far out there tale and to give his story some “gnarl”. I love his books.
I loved Neuromancer when I read it in highschool and think Gibson is a fine novelist, but as far as monofutures go, I can’t speak. I guess I liked how much he borrowed from noir writers. It was gritty and not all Jetsons at least.
That grittiness & really punk attitude is what I liked about the cyberpunks. They often showed the downsides of tech, how it could be exploited by corporations, elites, and cause all kinds of problems. It wasn’t all gleaming and shiny, but coated with pollution. That was part of the appeal.
—as far as telepathy & psychokinesis & all that go: I thought of the works of the Theodore Sturgeon first off. He was well steeped in that milieu & I quite like what I’ve read by him.
Like Chris at Fernglade I am uncomfortable about linear trajectories, so I am reluctant to say this, but it does seem that there is a genuine form of progress that is actually taking place.
Writing was invented. It is still here. Mathematics was invented. It is still here. Logic was invented. It is still here. Science was invented. It is still here.
What is more, mathematics in its more advanced aspects depends on (a form of) writing, logic in its more advanced aspects depends on (a form of) mathematics, science in its more advanced aspects depends on (various forms of) all three: writing, mathematics and logic.
It’s like a bicycle wheel. With each revolution of the wheel a civilisation rises and falls, but the bicycle still goes forward.
So significant progress is actually taking place, but at a much more fundamental level than the supposed progress of the monofuture. And it’s on a much bigger timescale.
This sort of progress could still be upset, of course, but I think it would take quite an upheaval to dislodge it. What seems to me more likely is that the next civilisation will generate its own discipline that is its equivalent to writing, mathematics, logic and science, and which incorporates all of them while going beyond them. I could make a guess at what such a discipline might be, but in reality it is as unimaginable to us as modern science would have been to an ancient Greek or Roman.
Even so, the idea of human progress worries me. Other animals don’t progress. They may mutate, but they don’t progress. It seems unnatural, somehow.
Re: environmentalism as fascism:
This one includes the horrific paragraph:
“Although eco-fascism can manifest in different ways (just like any umbrella ideology), there are consistent sets of beliefs that crop up among eco-fascists. They include veganism, anti-multiculturalism, white nationalism, anti-single use plastic, anti-Semitism, and, almost always, a passionate interest in Norse mythology. Most Twitter profiles of self-defining eco-fascists are a bespoke cocktail of alt-right memes, pictures of forests and cabins, hatred towards Jews, and rants about animal rights. Between calls for a racial purity and plastic bans, most accounts have tweets or retweets honouring Thor, celebrating Tyr Day, or glorifying Sunna, the Norse Sun Goddess.”
The author then claims:
“There are a number of key characteristics within the eco-fascist community, from rhetoric to specific character usage, that make them easily identifiable on social media. Tree, earth, or mountain emojis are parked next to almost every eco-fascist’s Twitter name, often accompanied by a Norse/Proto-Germanic rune – most commonly Algiz, “ᛉ” or “ᛦ”, known as the “life” rune.
“Eco-fascists claim the rune’s historical meaning and modern appropriation work as a perfect marriage of their beliefs; a respect for all “life” (nature, animals, and white people) as well as neo-Nazi principles. Eco-fascists will often share images of the rune online, in and amongst forest scenes or as a silhouette over rural images.”
Also consider this:
“… a sociologist at the University of Westminster suggested that the Radio 4 panel show “Gardeners’ Question Time” had become a crypto-nationalist hotbed of seething racial resentments…”
Wait, what? Seriously? What?
Also this, a history of fascisms infiltration to environmentalism:
More recently the Baker Creek Seed company came into hot water for valuing seed conservation over identity politics:
Point being, this conflation is already very much part of the currency of popular discourse. Equally troubling is the conflation of sincere religious beliefs with fascism.
Cliff, the shift to dogmatic rationalist materialism in SF didn’t come from the writers, it was a movement in SF fandom. Up into the late 1970s, you had plenty of occultists and occult ideas all through fandom; after that, the rationalists tried to force all of it into fantasy, and make the future safe for atheism. As for KSR, of course he’s trying to save industrial civilization. The environment will be just fine — give it a million years or so and a few crumbling ruins will be all that remains of the Anthropic Transitional Stage, the brief geological interval when our species messed things up a bit and then got stomped by the consequences of our own stupidity.
Your Kittenship, er, there are plenty of Second Baptist Churches; when I lived in Appalachia our house was two blocks from one. Historically they were the churches for black people, while the First Baptist Church was for white folks. (The Second Baptist Church of Cumberland, MD was a pretty thorough mix, but that’s common now as racial prejudices dissolve among the poor and working classes.) I suspect, for what it’s worth, that shoggoths might be more welcome there!
Peter, I’m quite sure that Roger Williams would have been delighted to discuss theology with shoggoths, and if he’d served hasty pudding he’d have had enthusiastic dinner guests — it’s not cheese polenta but it’s pretty close. I love the title of his pamphlet — the pamphlet press of the 17th century generally was a wonderful thing, and the titles were among their glories. I recall a series of pamphlets published by the Hermeticist Robert Fludd and some orthodox Christian opponents of his over the “weapon salve,” a magical remedy that healed wounds by anointing the weapon that caused them. Rev. Foster started it off with “A Spunge To Wipe Away The Weapon Salve,” to which Fludd responded with “The Squeesing of Parson Foster’s Spunge;” a friend of Foster’s named Moore returned to the fray with “The Second Lash of Alazonomastix” — that latter word being a fine Greek term, “biter of quack doctors;” Fludd fired back with “The Second Wash, or, The Moore Scour’d Againe.” That was the 17th century blogosphere, and they did it with verve!
J.L.Mc12, oh, sure. It’s a common fantasy, and the sexual dimension of it keeps a certain number of hands down a certain number of shorts…
Will J, I think you’re quite right. Much of what’s feeding intergenerational conflict right now is simply that my generation is the peak generation in anglophone North America, the ones who had so much and left so little, and they’re aware of how history will regard them — and that conflicts grievously with the almost messianic sense of importance and entitlement to which so many of that generation cling so frantically. Once the levers of power have slipped from their hands, no question, the blowback’s going to be savage — that’s one of the reasons I plan on working until I die — but things should be calmer between the generations thereafter, at least for a while.
Valenzuela, duly noted! Trust me, I’ve heard a lot of negative things about it already. 😉
Kimberly, it’s true, or nearly true — as long as you remember that “producer” is a euphemism. We don’t produce oil, we just extract it, and the other nations of the world that have hydrofracturable oil shales are biding their time, waiting until we draw down our supply and then suffer the inevitable economic hit. Why not let us run out first?
Sunnnv, good. Have you read John McClenon’s excellent sociological study Deviant Science? He shows, via controlled double-blinded studies, that the great majority of scientists who reject parapsychology know little about it and are motivated by a priori reasoning and dogmatic prejudice, while the great majority of those who are open to the possibility either have had paranormal experiences themselves, or recognize that an open mind is the first requirement of good science. It’s a good read.
I agree on inflation and think it’s also important to understanding the increase in “real wages” starting in the 1990s. In the US, the inflation rate calculation methodology was changed during the Clinton administration from linear (looking at the same products over time) to a geometric methodology (which tries to account for changes in purchasing habits as prices rise). For example, if beef goes up in price and chicken doesn’t, consumers are assumed to substitute chicken for beef. This change significantly lowered the reported inflation rate. The idea behind the change does make sense because people often substitute less expensive alternatives, but over time inflation is deemed to be low even as consumers can no longer afford many of the products that were once common in their lives. I think the resulting understatement of inflation explains, at least in part, why “real wages” started rising again in the late 1990s according to the graph linked in my previous comment. Even if it’s only subconciously, people realize they can no longer afford the life they once had and are being forced to find cheaper alternatives.
Here’s another chart regarding productivity gains and compensation that also helps explain the problem for most workers and why we have increasing levels of income inequality:
Productivity gains and compensation tracked each other from 1948 until the 1960s, and stayed close until the end of the 1970s. After the 1970s, compensation for non-supervisory workers (roughly the bottom 80% of workers) stagnated even as productivity continued to increase. It seems the income from the continued gains in productivity since the 1970s have largely gone to the highest earners or owners of capital.
Look up Isaac Arthur on YouTube; you’ll love him 🙂
My fellow tentacled horror fans, I am pleased to announce that finally, an artist has achieved a statue of Cthulhu truly reflecting his majesty:
JMG, I’ve never seen a 2nd Baptist in the midwest, but then most black Christians in these parts seem to prefer independent or AME churches. I love passing independent churches, regardless of the race of the worshippers, as those churches fully illustrate the Inverse Proportional Law of Christian Church Naming. The “Baptists” and “Methodists” have thousands of members. “The United Glory Zion Independent Bible Church of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” has 12 members. It’s fun.😄
We now return you to our discussion of The Future That Ain’t Gonna Be.
To JMG, thank you so much for the explanation — sorry I am this dense, sadly it does not seem be a temporary condition — Does that mean we “produce” oil that doesn’t come from the 50 states, territories like Puerto Rico, and the oceans surrounding? For instance, when this statistic is quoted, does it imply we are “producing” crude oil from under the ground in Iraq?
To Peter van Erp re First Speaker Preem Palver – oh, dear, yes! And for a total deconstruction of the Second Foundation, read Donald Kingsbury’s Psychohistorical Crisis. Tossing Michael Flynn’s novel Country of the Blind, which postulates that secret societies of manipulating masterminds are as susceptible to the decline-and-fall are as anyone, he shows them falling apart into schism in gory detail.
As for the original, every time I think of Papa Palver, it triggers a complete Fiddler on the Roof flashback.
To David P:
I deliberately chose not to have children by having myself sterilized at age 31. That said, being someone who likes children and who has taught generations of children, I don’t think it’s the worst thing to have or adopt them right now. I think you have a tremendous opportunity to help them (and anyone who will be in their circles or influenced by their example) by adapting to the circumstances of collapse. For instance, all the other parents are going to be pushing the “your whole point in life is to go to a good college” narrative. You have the chance to give your kids actual options besides Future Corporate Drone. You can teach them to work with their hands, to be scrappy, and to appreciate “little” things like clean water coming out of a tap or a snack with chocolate in it. You can instill the values of true conservation. You can teach them how to garden — I don’t have a single music student who gardens, and I have 40 of them right now. That’s unfortunate, because the world your children are quickly inheriting needs good, competent, small-scale vegetable and fruit farmers.
If the world crumbles beneath our feet, oh fracking well. Remember it can crumble in more ways than climate change. A cancer diagnosis if you’re in the US can be a death sentence if you’re working class, due to the extravagant cost of (often pointless and ineffective) treatments in the US’s sickcare system. In summation, just make the best out of what you have and don’t let the rest drive you crazy.
For your amusement: http://www.fourthbaptist.com/
A quick google map search gets you a dozen or so third baptists. I know I have seen in person at least one third presbyterian 😉
In the economy we talk about “creative destruction”, which is to say that economic changes result in the destruction of some industries or companies, freeing up space and resources to build better industries and companies in the future.
Why can’t this principle also apply to culture? We are facing “creative destruction” in the face. Progress takes a step back for a while, maybe a long while. But as we stand in the lineage of great civilizations, Babylon, Athens, Rome, Washington DC(?)… in the future after some dark ages we emerge greater than before?
It is arguably obvious that if the Monofuture is to be reached, it cannot be reached through linear progression. Mankind needs to take some steps back and few winding hallways first. Unyielding linear progress is just going to send us into a brick wall, or off a cliff.
If anything, industrial civilization has proven that man is not ready for that kind of future. The coming challenges will force us to deal with our human issues first.
Don’t forget that this perfect society in Star Trek: The Next Generation might only be for the top 0.01% from 150 worlds that enter Starfleet or other parts of the Federation’s elite. There was actually an episode of TNG which visited the failed colony world Turkana IV where society broke down and descended into violence.
There could be entire planets full of people who are living their entire lives in some kind of virtual reality like the Holodeck aboard the Enterprise.
This is partly by design because parts of the real world could get quite crowded if a lot of people used their ample supply of credits in the post-scarcity future of Fully Automated Luxury Communism for tourism.
Maybe the Federation is like the Brezhnev era USSR, the New Model Economy struggling to keep luxury communism on the road, between the declining number of citizens engaged with the culture of the real universe rather than their neural interfaces, the ever growing subsidies to the Terraforming Agency, and the spending on Starfleet increasing once the Borg and the Dominion come along.
Well, well, well. My first suggestion is that those who want to live in space try the Australian outback first. It is incredibly beautiful and also incredibly inhospitable. You could at least drive out for help if you needed it and find something goodness knows how many hours away. Don’t go too far into it. There are settlement remains around that could be used. Some towns are re-inventing themselves quite successfully. At the moment they rely on tourism and that won’t be forever but at the moment it works and that is all we can do – work with what works now.
That is my only suggestion.
I have a second point however. I also saw a UFO many years ago in the 50s and I have never been able to explain it to myself. Note I do not call it a flying saucer. My son brought this up one night in the car while I was driving him and a couple of his mates to town and there was a dead silence. I think they were contemplating whether they were safer jumping out of the car now on the freeway or waiting till we arrived. They did stay in and have even spoken to me since.
JMG – Thanks for the response. I think I think climate change is going to be really bad, but by no means do I think it will lead to extinction. I live in the Willamette Valley in Western Oregon, so I’m suspecting that we’ll end up somewhat like, say, a wetter version of Fresno when all is said and done. Not something I’m excited about, but not apocalypse either.
Caryn – thanks for the welcome. I have anxiety, so it can be hard to dissociate at times. I have made changes to prepare for the future. My yard is all fruit trees/garden (though at .16 acre in a subdivision, its not large, but its what I can do). I don’t fly. I live a 10 minute walk from work (high school teacher). We have a car, but are under no illusion that driving will be an option for more than another 5-10 years. I’m looking at solar panels, not because I think they will make us self-sufficient (they won’t), but because I think they will be a community asset as we get further along this process.
I find the political talk here interesting. I don’t agree with a lot of it, other parts are right on. I have tended to think myself a progressive. Voted Obama twice (don’t regret either given the opposition, though him bailing out the bankers was bad. Like really really bad. He wasn’t visionary enough to realize that that was the right time to blow up the system). I also voted Hillary and yelled about Trump for two years afterward. I think Trump is problematic for a number of reasons, but in hindsight he has been a useful transition point. He is far too comfortable with white nationalist language, is corrupt, and cares too much about the stock market (look at his cabinet for crying out loud). I don’t think he’s authentic, butnhe has changed the conversation in acknowledging that globalization has failed. You see Bernie and Warren picking up on this theme in the Dem. Primaries. If one of them wins, the Dems. Have a shot. If its Biden or Harris, it will show the Dems have learned nothing and Trump will crush them. The establishment of both parites in in the pockets of big business and useless. The future isn’t one party crushing the other. Its the AOC Dems and the Hawley Republicans allying to crush the establishment. At least I hope.
Skygazer, I like your bicycle wheel analogy. And I think you’re right to be worried about human progress – the round of progress that’s winding up right now brought plenty of developments that mankind would have been better off without, and nobody can yet imagine what the next round will bring. JMG likes to point out that that the universe doesn’t care if the average American wants his or her middle class lifestyle to continue forever, but the universe also doesn’t care if people like JMG want industrial civilization with all its trappings to just go away once the oil runs out. I think there’s a fair bit of wishful thinking on both sides.
I sometimes think of this business of trying to predict what kind of future we’re headings towards as being like a man scaling a succession of rolling hills. When he reaches each crest, he can see a long way into the valley in front of him, clear to the base of the next hill: that’s what happens when a civilization completes its development and starts declining, and at that point someone with enough knowledge of history can see how things will break down along the way to a dark age much like other dark ages, after which we’ll see the stirrings of a new great culture.
What we can’t do is see past the foot of that next hill. And that’s what I think some people get wrong by saying that my belief in the possibility of space colonization means that I’ve emotionally invested myself in an empty fantasy. Trouble is, I’m not emotionally invested in it – I don’t expect to see it happen in my lifetime, and I also happen to believe that the important things in life – love and war and friendship and learning and the daily struggle to do good for the people who rely on you – are just as present in a world where the most advanced vehicle is a coracle as in one that has starships.
But when someone claims to know for certain that no future civilization will ever develop space colonization, I feel the desire to push back against what seems to me an act of hubris, namely, claiming to know the limits to the science and technology of all future cultures. Nobody back in Roman times could have imagined what Faustian civilization would one day do with its technology, and I don’t think that we today are so omniscient as to be able to know which technologies will and won’t be developed over the next few millennia.
Don’t get me wrong – I look up to JMG, I’ve have read many of his books as well as this blog and the ADR, and I esteem him as the best futurist I know when it comes to coolly and rationally making sense of the long descent and the end of America’s empire. And I share his disdain for utopic visions of the future where progress continues indefinitely onward, or where technology solves all of life’s ills. But I also don’t think that either JMG or anyone else can see past the first stirrings of the next great culture – past the foot of the next hill on our journey. The valley that we’re in right now brought plenty of things that mankind had never experienced before, and as we head over the crest and into the next valley, I’m not just going to take JMG’s word for it that there aren’t any big surprises left.
The other day I started reading Max Heindel’s Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception. Early on makes the point in that part of the purpose of the material world is as a testing ground. He gives the example of an inventor who dreams up a machine– that is, creates it in the Astral World– only to make the machine on the physical plane and discover that it doesn’t actually work. Heindel makes the point that this is one of the main purposes of incarnation in the physical world– it’s only down here that we can really learn anything.
It occurred to me that this is true on a large scale as well. So to return to my example, it’s easy to create, on the Astral Plane, an easy and enjoyable trip from Earth to Mars. But once we bring the energy down to the Physical Plane, we discover that simple trips to low-Earth orbit are in fact horrifically unpleasant, as well as being so expensive that only countries with world-hegemon-level resources can manage it. A trip as far away as Mars is an unusually cruel death sentence, if it’s possible at all. So, it turns out, the Astral form cannot achieve reality in the material world.
So from that perspective, isn’t the clinging to the Monofuture a kind of rejection of Material reality? Indeed, of the whole purpose of incarnation? And you could say that about all failed utopianisms, from Marxist Communism to priestly celibacy in the Catholic Church. But somehow it’s doubly ironic in the case of the Monofuture, since so many of its adherents think of themselves as “materialists.”
Mog, thank you! Thanks also for the link to the review — I wonder if Trump would consider putting a tariff on the importation of stupid ideas from La-La Land. As for Hubbard, oh, granted — most serious occultists like to pretend that he never existed, he’s an embarrassment on that scale, but that’s probably something we have to overcome one of these days. 😉
Booklover, a fine metaphor. Was the thing that ripped a hole in the shield by any change bright orange?
David BLT, I’m inclined to agree, but would like to see the idea developed in detail in an essay. Varun?
Phil H, trick photography has its charms, no question!
Chris, I figure the chipmunks will establish their civilization about ten million years after the rats. They’re smaller and more personable, thus will wait their turn.
Ray, yeah, that would be a recipe for blandness!
Justin, huzzah! I have a shortwave receiver, and Europe’s not that far away; I may see if I can pick it up.
Dan, thanks for this.
Greg, er, which film? The phrase “colorless green ideas sleep furiously” was coined by Noam Chomsky as an example of a sentence, each element of which is a meaningful word, and which has the formal structure of a sentence, but which makes no sense.
David, and away we go! This is standard — the parties will lurch and unravel and shed various groups, then reorganize around whatever the next set of major political stressors turn out to be. On the other hand, part of the story may be an attempt by Democratic publicists to boost morale at a time when Trump’s looking increasingly strong.
Nicholas, that seems very likely to me! I’m at the tail end of the Boomers, and so I got a good dose of the Utopian fantasy with a sprinkle of dystopia over the top. As for leading by example, my point isn’t that you shouldn’t do politics if that appeals to you, it’s that if you’re going to do politics, you need to walk your talk and lead by example, or you’re not going to accomplish much of anything — as the Boomers are by and large demonstrating.
Christopher, er, if you think I said that the Monofuture ended when cyberpunk showed up, you may want to reread my essay. Cyberpunk arrived right as the Monofuture became the only future most people were willing to think about — and understandably, as the core theme of cyberpunk is that the Monofuture is inescapable even though it’s nasty. Also, I don’t think there’s the slightest chance that the Monofuture will last as long as Faustian civilization — it’s a short term phenomenon, born in the pages of pulp SF between the world wars and dying a slow death around us right now. The sole question is what will come next, as the Faustian spirit gropes for some new anchor for its dreams of infinity.
Ganv, thank you — you’re dead on target, of course.
Justin, thanks for this. I was basing my comment on the recollections of someone I know.
Red Oak, no argument there! The trajectory of the Faustian age of reason was set right at the beginning — that’s typical of ages of reason — and so was its orthodox opposition. The challenge that will be met in the years ahead is finding a third option.
Justin, whatever floats your hoverboard. I found the whole movement dreary in the extreme — but that’s a matter of personal taste, of course. Sturgeon? He was a practicing occultist; read his short story “One Foot and the Grave” sometime.
Skygazer, there’s a slow and by no means certain cumulative process whereby useful techniques get added to the available options. I’ve argued repeatedly that the scientific method will be among the options most future civilizations will have, and with luck and a lot of hard work, organic intensive gardening and farming will make it too — a huge issue, as we finally have a method of agriculture that improves the soil over time rather than depleting it! The thing to keep in mind, though, is that this slow accumulation of technique shows no signs of accelerating over time — every civilization seems to come up with one or two big ideas, a few dozen smaller ones, and a varying assortment of tools and techniques that go into the pot, and just how much value gets placed on those things varies. Astrology, for example, was the big idea contributed by Mesopotamian civilization…
Violet, yep. I hope the serious environmentalists among us are ready to be accused of fascism the next time they suggest that the rich might decrease their carbon footprint…
Bakerpete, I dislike videos and so don’t watch them, Has he done anything in print?
Your Kittenship, nice! We have an excellent portrait of Yog-Sothoth hanging in a stairwell in the local art museum:
The church I’m hoping to see someday is the Last Baptist Church — not that I have anything against Baptists, it’s just a funny thought. It could as well be the Last Church of Christ Cosmonaut, or what have you.
Kimberly, no, the current “production” figures are from US territory, where the fracking orgy goes on at top speed even though it’s all being done on endlessly heaped up debt.
DT, whenever some economist talks about “creative destruction,” you can bet that there’s going to be some serious obfuscation about who benefits from the creation and who suffers from the destruction…
MawKernewek, I figured a long time ago that those “replicators” don’t actually make stuff out of thin air; they’re special-purpose transporters that bring consumer products from planet-sized sweatshops orbiting a dozen economically disadvantaged star systems, where alien creatures labor long hours at starvation wages to make sure Star Fleet personnel can have a cup of coffee whenever they want.
JillN, I like to recommend northern Nevada on the same principle — it even looks a lot like Mars. As for the UFO, what exactly did you see?
David, it may not be wetter — if the climate belt shifts northward and the usual changes happen as the climate warms, you may be in high desert. Still, you’re right that it’s not apocalypse.
Wesley, you know, it’s a little rude to talk about me only in the third person and ignore the fact that I’ve addressed you directly twice. Just saying…
Steve, exactly. We imagine things and then try to make them happen, and sometimes they do but more often they don’t. As for a rejection of materlality, exactly — that’s what Steiner (Heindel’s teacher) called the Luciferic kind of evil, the sort that’s motivated by pride and thinks it’s too good for matter.
Hi JMG, thank you for the post!
Unfortunately a few days ago the actor Rutger Hauer died, exactly the same year that the character he played in the movie Blade Runner (1982) also died (2019); but today we cannot see outer colonies inhabited by biomechanical replicants Nexus 6 attacking “ships on fire in the shoulder of Orion” or watching “C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate”. At the end all that things, all this kind of Faustian dreams and fantasies, some day soon “will be lost in time, like tears in the rain”
Somehow the loss of faith, also in progress, like childhood, arouses some kind of melancholy
No, the faith in progress or in the Monofuture is losing appeal at an accelerating pace, mostly between the more powerful and (supposed) brilliant people; a lot of them are buying houses in nuclear silos or buying land in New Zealand or Uruguay, etc…
If you listen the comments of people like Elon Musk about going to Mars, it is not “to conquer the wild” but because of certainty about the collapse of out civilization or the human species; in the same vain Stephen Hawking talked about “most threats to humans come from science and technology”; and, as Musk, he believes the human species “cannot be a one planet species or risk extinction”
There is an interesting article talking about how the super-rich try to adapt to the “collapse” or to the “event” that will bring down our civilization, and I recommend you to read it (if you have not read it before:
An especially interesting part of the article is the following:
“This single question occupied us for the rest of the hour. They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless? What would stop the guards from choosing their own leader? The billionaires considered using special combination locks on the food supply that only they knew. Or making guards wear disciplinary collars of some kind in return for their survival. Or maybe building robots to serve as guards and workers — if that technology could be developed in time.
That’s when it hit me: At least as far as these gentlemen were concerned, this was a talk about the future of technology. Taking their cue from Elon Musk colonizing Mars, Peter Thiel reversing the aging process, or Sam Altman and Ray Kurzweil uploading their minds into supercomputers, they were preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether and insulating themselves from a very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic, and resource depletion. For them, the future of technology is really about just one thing: Escape.”
And then he continues in another part of the article:
“When the hedge funders asked me the best way to maintain authority over their security forces after “the event,” I suggested that their best bet would be to treat those people really well, right now. They should be engaging with their security staffs as if they were members of their own family. And the more they can expand this ethos of inclusivity to the rest of their business practices, supply chain management, sustainability efforts, and wealth distribution, the less chance there will be of an “event” in the first place. All this technological wizardry could be applied toward less romantic but entirely more collective interests right now.
They were amused by my optimism, but they didn’t really buy it. They were not interested in how to avoid a calamity; they’re convinced we are too far gone. For all their wealth and power, they don’t believe they can affect the future. They are simply accepting the darkest of all scenarios and then bringing whatever money and technology they can employ to insulate themselves — especially if they can’t get a seat on the rocket to Mars.”
So the main “promoters of the future” are scared to their bones with the future they see and are promoting, and at the same time, what they are selling to the hoi polloi a kind of “Heresy of Futurism” as Toynbee described it, pushing the accelerator of more and more extreme transhumanistic fantasies about “defeat death”, “the singularity”, “engineering ourselves to become more intelligent, strong”, “improve nature”, etc…
But more and more people are losing faith in the Progress , because as Groucho Marx once said: “Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”
Do check out Kunstler’s Eyesore of the month (the best part of his blog, IMHO)
That is what the monofuture looks like, folks, at a cost of $C84M. I hope Edmonton has branch libraries, because I doubt any self-respecting reader would want to be caught dead inside that spaceship.
The irony that so many are doubling down with Christianity now, yet it is no coincidence. “God is dead,” said Nietzsche. “But given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown.” As long as there are relics of this MonoFuture, there will continue to be believers. Some of them will find dead-ended caves. Others will find caves which have multiple tunnels, some being more far reaching for others. It is no wonder that diversity is encouraged. Through diversity, that which is weak, and/or useless finds a suitable home. It’s fascinating watching and realizing how these metaphors play out, in our daily lives, in the communities and cultures around us, the economies and civilizations throughout history, and even through religion and seemingly gods. A good reason to have faith in multiple gods. You don’t get pigeon-holed into one way of thinking which ends up being a dead end.
Regarding Internet-connected devices, amid the marketing hype about features and convenience, and the justified concerns about privacy and security, there’s one subtle background factor helping to drive the change. That’s manufacturing cost. A bluetooth or WiFi chip is cheaper to put into a gadget than a few control knobs and buttons.
So, suppose you want to sell electric toothbrushes whose motor speed (brushing “intensity”) and shut off time can be set by the user. That’s hardly a necessary feature (electric toothbrushes aren’t necessary at all anyhow, although they do generally brush better) but if you don’t have it, some portion of user reviewers will complain that the built-in setting is too weak, too vigorous, stops too soon or too late. (And some will have special needs in those regards.)
You could make these settings adjustable with a built-in rotary knob for each setting, but by the time you make the knobs reliable enough (given that the whole function of the thing is to vibrate), waterproof enough, sufficiently incapable of coming apart into pieces some child could choke on, and so on, it’s a significant cost. Or you can add a chip or two to the internal circuit board the device needs anyhow (to regulate the battery charging) and have users go to your site or download the app to set the speed and time, then add additional software features about setting automatic brush-your-teeth reminders or parental your-kid-didn’t-brush alerts or automatic re-ordering of replacement brush heads, and advertise all that as a plus.
Actual buttons and knobs are becoming a luxury feature. They’ll be all the rage in Retrotopia.
I hope you’ll take my word for it that I never intended to slight you. You know I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t find your philosophy helpful in making sense of the course of the world right now.
You’ve talked a few times about having Asperger’s Syndrome – well, I was diagnosed with the same thing as a child, and I’ve always had a hard time with social cues and knowing how to express myself politely. I will be careful to address you directly from here on out.
Skygazer–writing is wonderful technology, but it is not guaranteed to survive. Witness the numerous ancient scripts that no one can read. Now given the number of literate people in our current society it is probably very unlikely to die out before the human race does, but not impossible. Basic arithmetic is likely to survive as well; there is obvious utility in being able to count ones material goods. But theoretical math is also a fragile thing. Look at the recent discoveries that the Babylonians had some mathematical and astronomical knowledge that our culture only recently redeveloped and are now able to recognize in the clay tablets that spent centuries as meaningless collections of marks.
Ah yes – Star Trek… the great Faustian fantasy (“Space… the final frontier…)! I remember watching the original series when I was just a wee lad and uncritically soaked it all in. Then I watched the re-runs during the rest of my childhood, as my critical faculty gradually awakened. I remember once hearing that the producers wanted the show to be a mindless “Wild Wild West” set in space, which rubbed Roddenberry and his team of writers the wrong way — so while they sometimes appeased their masters, they often provided much different fare. Believe it or not, I can honesty say that some episodes of that show started me on the quest for answers to some of the deepest questions there are, such as “What is it to be human?”, “What is a god?”, “What is the mind?” and “What is the world/observable universe?” So, for that, I am grateful for the writers of the series.
Compared to other space programs of its period (Lost in Space) and a bit later (Space 1999) it was vastly more stimulating – though I must admit that there were a few episodes of the latter that also got me thinking for a long time after the credits went up.
But, of course, it was the absurd basic premise of the series that so powerfully stimulated the passions of its cult-like followers (can you imagine an annual “Lost in Space” convention?). Perhaps Star Trek, more than any other distinct popular culture phenomenon, encapsulated the wish-fulfillment of the Faustian Monofuture. Naturally, it was a product of the heady late-sixties where in the course of a mere 20 years flight had progressed from propeller-driven aircraft pooping along at a couple hundred miles per hour to voyages to the Moon zipping at speeds exceeding 17,000 miles per hour. Plot such progress in a linear manner (or perhaps exponentially – after all, linear progress is so boring) and of course we’ll be travelling several times the speed of light in a couple of centuries! The Milky Way will be our backyard! Or so it seemed back then…
… let us hope that once the public has abandoned its blind faith in the Monofuture, we have in place an exciting, varied future portrayed in our SF to cater to the shift in sensibilities.
Also – thanks for attributing the birth of SF to Mary Shelley: I wholeheartedly agree. The fact that such a masterpiece was written by a 19-year-old based on a nightmare still leaves me in awe more than four decades after reading it.
If the affluent really start to reject environmentalism, does that open possibilities for those lower in the class structure that could really benefit from, say, Green Wizardry? I won’t hold my breath on this, but I’m mediating on it.
@ JMG, regarding “Your friend’s fantasy of standing in an alien desert in a robot body differs only in minor details from the traditional Christian hope of standing in heaven in one of the glorified bodies of the elect. The parallels are exact enough that I expect to see a significant number of today’s transhumanist atheists becoming devout fundamentalist Christians within a decade.”
Oh, it’s already started. I watched it happen in the other direction in the early 2000s as a particular singulatarian cult attracted a number of deconverted fundamentalists on the tail end of the Bush years, and now they’re starting to seep back. So far most of them are just going on about how the only hope for The Great Singularity is that fundamentalist Christianity seizes control of Western civilization so that The Good Guys That Can Do Science go on into the future rather than being taken over by China / the middle east / Mexico / whatever that person’s personal boogeyman is. But you can see them slowly oozing that way.
@ David P: Oh, yes, Obama had the temperament to be an excellent Recovery president along the lines of Eisenhower … of to go further back in history, Vespasian, who cleaned up Rome after a long stretch of Crazy Years that made the current administration seem like beginners. That was his biggest problem (internally. Externally, there were people out there who were steaming under the collars just because he existed.)
@Wesley … if you are correct, then where are all the other space-faring civilizations? (I realize somebody has to be the first,given your premises, but odds are against it being us.)
John: I always figured the replicators used recycled sludge as their base, and supplies picked up whenever they docked, which seems to have been often. And never forget, the stuff coming out of it is military food. Rations. I’m sure there are people cooking dinner – and opening restaurants – throughout the Federation as the crew of the Enterprise sat down in the mess hall. And people grabbing a take-out pot of replicator sludge on the way home from a hard day cleaning up other people’s messes or whatever.
Also – I’ll take preaching against sin seriously when the preachers of all denominations get their noses out of other people’s beds and start in on self-righteousness, pride, etc. BTW – minding other people’s business isn’t exactly good Christian theology, according to the Gospels. “First take the roofbeam out of your own eye before you tackle the bit of sawdust in your neighbor’s eye.”
Oh – and Blessed Lughbassaf/Lammas, for those who celebrate it. Have a loaf of homemade bread and enjoy! (alas – made do with a biscuit this morning. But the biscuits here are superb. I hope it’s a Southern thing.)
JMG, as far as I know, the thing that disrupted the space colony wasn’t orange.
As for eco-fascism, as far as I know, there exist fusions of right-wing extremism and environmentalism, but they aren’t typical of the environmentalist scene.
Once (If?) I become wealthy, I plan on writing a book on the 100 year conflict between Japan and America over control of the Pacific Ocean that culminated in World War 2, and, come to think of it, translating Japanese science fiction would make for a very fun, rewarding past time too. Thank you for that suggestion.
Another topic I wanted to address was how much the monofuture influences developments in the tech space, and how once faith in the monofuture goes, I think a lot of the air will be deflated from that bubble. I work in the data and artificial intelligence space and, as you can imagine, it’s mostly populated by Star Trek fans. There’s quite a lot of Data figurines (the robot from TNG) sitting on desks, and, as you can imagine, most tech workers are dismissive of concerns I try to raise about the future.
“Once all cars are electric, that will reduce CO2 enough.” “But who wants to drive electric cars really?” “My Tesla is amazing and I would never want to drive another car again.” Lots of that sort of talk. But what concerns me is that a lot of the development in tech in general and AI specifically is driven by unrealistic expectations of what it can do. For example, it’s really good at solving solvable problems when all the rules are known (think Chess or Go), it’s pretty good at identifying people and characteristics about people based on their face, and it’s pretty good at telling you which books to recommend to people as long as either those books or authors are popular enough to generate a large enough data set. There’s a lot it can do, but there’s so much it can’t do.
It can’t solve problems based on yet-to-be-discovered rules, it does poorly at recommending products from unknown entities (thus keeping those entities unknown and keeping what’s popular popular), and you’re much better relying on dogs for person recognition when a person decides to cover or partially cover their face. But the way people talk about it, it’s this panacea for all of society’s problems, and will usher in a new era where we will just have to ask a computer to receive enlightened guidance from on high, with the expectation that this will somehow all lead to Star Trek!
It’s really crazy! There’s no way so much investment would flow into this space if it weren’t for the monofuture.
> Astrology has been disreputable among the learned since the end of the Renaissance, when magic and occultism in general fell out of favor, long before the studies were performed.
Astrology was in its absolute peak during the Renaissance — as you seem to agree — practiced by tons of scholars at the time (including people like Newton towards the end of the Renaissance). But even after it’s end, despite a brief pause, it had an absolute revival in the 18th and 19th centuries, and up until WWII at least, along with the occult, it was a favorite hobby of the higher classes (the same classes who had the best education, i.e the “learned”) —
JMG, thank you for that explanation, I truly appreciate it. The US is in deep doodoo, and the leaders of other countries have graciously given us all the rope we need to hang ourselves.
I’m not sure I’d usually expect JMG and Bill Nye, the Science Guy, to agree on much – but Nye has said “colonizing Mars is a pipe dream.” He points out the cold, the lack of air, and the radiation. Also the fact that living in cramped, smelly domes and spacesuits “would get old real quick.” He also points out hat few people live in Antarctica. He says to his fellow space-science enthusiasts, “meaning no disrespect, but guys, are you high?!” I can’t find the video where he makes these amusing comments. Nye is head of the Planetary Society, an organization that supports space science, research, and exploration – not necessarily “manned” exploration. He says people may visit Mars to do research, as they do Antarctica. But “nobody is going to be setting up towns and raising families there.”
Currently I’m living in a small town in remote, rural, Arctic Alaska. I posted on Facebook that anyone wondering what living in a Mars colony might be like should try living here first. No roads in or out (coming and going is expensive and must be done by airplane). Limited options as to things (or food) to buy in stores. Limited access to medical care. Few of the entertainment or recreation amenities one expects in most towns or cities. No trees. Many fewer creatures than in the “lower 48.” Dull, functional, utilitarian architecture. And very cold, dark winters. It would be good practice for Mars! (Actually, of course, it’s immeasurably nicer than Mars would be. It’s nice than Antarctica, even!) But, none of my friends who think it would be cool to live on Mars jumped at a chance to visit me here – “but it’s not Mars,” one said. Just like the guy described in a previous comment who wanted to visit an alien desert but couldn’t be bothered to visit a New Mexico desert.
That’s fascinating about the fandom movement, because my childhood daydreams were segregated along exactly those lines. I got deeply uncomfortable reading or playacting stories that introduced mystical elements into otherwise scientific universes, and likewise any mention of science in my fantasy produced a queasy feeling.
I’ve never understood it. I was born in the early 80s, so clearly fandom trends were far outside of my conscious awareness. My only guess now is that I’ve got an astral plane sensitivity.
DFC, did you by any chance read my novel Retrotopia? One of the characters, the streetcar magnate Janice Mikkelson, reminisces at one point about the period right after the civil war that tore the US apart into a dozen impoverished republics. She was just another construction worker then, and she got hired to clean out the remains of a gated community with its own private security force. When the civil war broke out and the rule of law went away, the security force calmly turned off the alarm system, went from house to house, shot the rich people who lived there, took everything of value, and left. I’m quite sure we can expect scenes like that in the US if social order ever breaks down.
Nastarana, I always keep track of the Eyesore of the Month. Edmonton’s got a serious rival, though, in the main branch of the Seattle Public Library, a hideous object that’s also very poorly designed in terms of access to the collection. Seattle used to have a fine Carnegie library downtown; they replaced it with a tolerable 1960s-modern building; then just after 2000 they hired a big name architectural firm and got themselves one of the worst library buildings in North America. There’s nothing wrong with it that a week’s hard work with a wrecking ball wouldn’t fix!
Prizm, oh, granted. Changes on this scale take a long time to work out.
Walt, fascinating. That makes a good deal of sense.
Wesley, thank you for taking my comment seriously! Fair enough; I understand missing social cues.
Ron, I liked Space: 1999 a great deal, not least because its spacecraft and most of the other technology was quite realistic, and yeah, it tried to push the intellectual envelope. I also hope that SF will find its way back to a wide range of imaginary realities — and of course that’s something to which I hope to contribute, and hope others will do the same. As for Mary Shelley, I think it was Brian Aldiss who first made the case for Frankenstein as the first science fiction novel — and yes, it’s a helluva read.
John, I think it’s possible, though there may be some lag time, and buzzwords such as “environmentalism” will have to be avoided for a while.
Tony, that’s about what I expected. Stick to your guns, fundamentalist Christians — a new wave of converts will be coming your way in five to ten years, and they’re going to want to hear confident voices with clear, straightforward answers to their questions.
Patricia, if the crew of the Enterprise had just once grumbled about replicator chow and looked forward to a planet call where they could get actually fresh food, I’d have been much more impressed by the original series!
Booklover, ecofascism is a tiny fringe of a fringe, but we can expect to hear it talked, or rather yelled, about at great volume shortly in an attempt to shout down the suggestion that the rich live a little less extravagantly.
Dennis, that’s a fascinating point: the Monofuture as a major cause of malinvestment, and thus of business failure. Hmm! I can see a fun study on that…
Kimberly, you’re most welcome. Yes, exactly.
Mike, fascinating — I didn’t know Nye had said that. He’s right, of course. As for Alaska, yes, exactly — it’s a lush tropical paradise compared to central Antarctica, which is a lush tropical paradise compared to Mars.
Cliff, that’s fascinating. I grew up with science fantasy, by contrast — Andre Norton was a fave of mine, and her SF is full of fantasy elements — and I prefer that sort of mixture.
@ JMG – I can report that ‘Years after Years’ ended worse than I thought it would. Not only did the plucky family defeat the evil Prime Minister with smartphones and public awareness, ugh, but the show betrayed its central premise, the the future will be very rough due to climate change, financial crashes, and political instability, by ending with one of the main character’s brain getting uploaded to a computer. Eternal life on a hard drive. Yay.
Look, an EV charge point with an attached diesel generator :
We should probably expect more of this kind of thing.
You are, of course, quite right about writing and arithmetic. It also seems to me highly unlikely that the advanced features of today’s science will survive in future civilisations.
However, the principles of writing and arithmetic have survived even though certain individual examples have not, and it seems to me likely that the principles of science will do likewise.
@ Ryan S
Ah! I was wondering about that upturn in the 1990s, but being in the UK I was not in a position to comment. Your explanation makes a lot ot sense, particularly in view of your second link.
It is interesting but probably futile to speculate whether all this was a deliberate and conscious policy to extract wealth from the lower classes or whether it was the cumulative effect of a lot of separate smaller acts of self-interest.
Re my UFO sighting.
This happened in the mid 50s. It happened on the south Coast of New South Wales in a small town I was then living in. I was outside one night and looked towards the range at the back which ended in a bluff. Above the bluff I saw a circle of lights. The circle was probably large enough to hold people but that did not occur to me and nor has it since. I had some comparison because it was so close to the bluff. It was above the range and there was absolutely no settlement of any sort there or on the other side of the mountain. As I was looking the lights went out one by one and that was that. Someone suggested it was the moon disappearing but they didn’t see it. Anyway that theory was obviously wrong. Definitely not reflected light from a city onto clouds or anything.
Just a puzzling thing.
Don’t mention it much but it is interesting. Doubt that our Defence Forces had anything to do with and it doesn’t match with anything else I have read of people’s sightings of UFOs.
At least you don’t have to worry whether it is safe to drive with me.
Thanks for the compost tea recipe. I’d started something along those lines but the bucket is full of compost. What you are describing sounds like it might be an improvement.
With regards to SF, Thomas Disch wrote an entertaining history of the way technology and other ideas have moved from SF to being realized (or attempted) called :The Dream Our Stuff Is Made Of”. He describes the scene as full of hucksters and con men. I’m reading “Bright SIded” by Barbara Ehrenreich right now and it has me thinking back to it. There were moments in PW Singer’s “Wired For War,” a collection of essays about the hubris around military technology (very much in line with your thoughts in “Twilight’s Last Gleaming”), that are straight out of Disch’s book too, with military leaders paying big money for research into light sabers and hover bikes (etc). I believe one of them is quoted as saying “If it can be imagined, it can be built”
I think that Will J hit the nail on the head here. The keyword, at least for myself, is internet. As long as we have internet, it feels like the future will be pleasant enough.
I recall reading an article by JMG on the Archdruid Report about the eventual death of the internet, but I remain unconvinced. Sure, the internet may get more expensive, and speedy and reliable connections only available in large towns. Sure, free streaming of HD videos may become a thing of the past. But the easy sharing of important information and quick communication will stay because:
1) these things take minuscule bandwidth compared to something like YouTube, and are thus significantly cheaper,
2) there are massive commercial interests in keeping it going.
The internet is not just for sharing cat memes and consumer shopping. Large, multi-national companies use it for their employees to collaborate around the world. Some of these probably have enough money to keep a lower-bandwidth, available-only-in-large-towns version of the internet running all by themselves.
JMG, there was an original Star Trek episode where Kirk asked the ship’s chef to make meatloaf in the shape of turkeys for Thanksgiving. Of course, the Being with God-like Powers of the Week then turned them into actual turkeys, so I don’t know if this counts as a limit on replicators.
I was thinking about the replicator question. I actually like ST Enterprise as it was a but more realistic. Replicator technology would involve converting feces, urine and other biological waste back into coffee and food. I was working on the large life sciences centrifuge back in the 90’s and one of the big issues was what to do with the animal waste. Considering the buildup of toxic and explosive gases, I think we calculated that every other shuttle trip back would be filled to the brim with waste. For the amusement of the commentariat, this is what NASA’s monofuture vision was in 1989 (none of which ever came close to being realised).
“The needs for life sciences research and facilities on Space Station in Phase 2, based on future space exploration and utilization plans, are discussed. The assumed scenario involves a Lunar Base, manned missions to Mars, and an orbiting Space Colony for the production of Solar Power Satellites permitting replacement of fossil fuels by the middle of the next century. From this scenario, the contours of a life sciences program for the period after 1998 are derived. Based on the main elements of such a program, the major new life sciences facilities needed in Phase 2 are identified. It is concluded that a full-length dedicated life sciences module and an attached short module with large centrifuge and animal research facilities, as well as a man-rated variable research facility and other attached facilities are needed. A proposed deployment schedule for these facilities is presented. Should replacement of fossil fuels by space-derived solar power not be necessary, then the same elements and facilities will be needed, but the schedule can be relaxed.”
I suspect (if we are lucky), the world will diversify much like described in Retrotopia. People will chose the areas they want and the technology level they are happy with. So I suspect there will continue to be some full blow urban societies with access to nuclear power etc, some medium tech areas and some low tech areas. (The “Rich” are already taking over New Zealand as a bolt hole). I also suspect people will find there way back to forgotten places as the cost of living will be cheap if you are willing to take on the project and work with your neighbours. There is a town in Arizona, Jerome, which was a failed mining town, pretty much deserted, which was found by 70’s hippy types as a cheap place. It evolved into a arts community and is a destination now. The lack of regulations and red tape allowed on to build a place and live a life which many did. I would expect to see more of this as areas get depopulated due to commercial/industrial shifts like when people adapted old warehouses into housing.
If you have ever listen to Peterson’s lectures, one thing that concerns him is the sense of nihilism amount the younger generation as they only see this binary of distopia/utopia. I think one thing we can do is put out a vision of an alternative future that respects the limits of the ecosphere while providing a better quality of life for the average person. I really liked Retrotopia for this and I think we need to expand on these ideas and not only imagine it, but put it into practice where we can in our own lives.
Nastarana: That photo of the library is just plain sad. I am partial to old, human-size architecture and cannot understand how anyone can look at the modern stuff – including the dreary 60’s style, less extravagantly ugly than the more modern offerings – and say, Wow, that’s a beautiful building! Just because it’s feasible doesn’t mean it should be built.
Walt F: Thanks for the explainer as to why ordinary buttons and dials are disappearing from everything, I hadn’t considered the logistics and cost of installing them, but I miss them because I am singularly incapable of making cyber things operate correctly – or pretty much at all. I don’t bother buying anything that has to operate from afar via wifi or ‘smart’ phone app because I already know ahead of time that I won’t ever be able to get it to work.
DFC: Somewhere along the line I read the article you’ve referred to, I think someone here linked to it in the past. For all their money and power, the ultra rich realize that neither insulates them against the tragedy of a society in disarray. The most basic things that have held civilizations together, human contact and cooperation, they’ve rejected out of hand in favor of some hoped-for technological savior. I wouldn’t think that they’ve lost faith in progress or the Monofuture so much as they are disappointed that it hasn’t progressed sufficiently fast to provide them with what they want. They have come face-to-face with the limits of technology, but they still believe it is the only thing that can save them.
Well, a high-five, (do people still do that? LOL) to a fellow Leftie-Liberal. There are a few of us here, but arguably in the minority of commenters. I agree with you take on recent past & current politics.
& Congrats, it sounds like your home is coming along well, I’d only gently remind/noodge you, as DFC, upthread has illustrated – one of the biggest ‘preparations’ is to make and keep good friends with your neighbours, colleagues, students and their families, now. It’s true, we humans are herd animals, we need each other, we thrive much better together than alone or against each other and well, it’s just so much more soul nurturing and FUN.
My husband, his whole family (going generations back on his mother’s side) and one of my sons also have diagnosed anxiety and depression. It is very hard to combat. Apart from currently available medication, I’ve noticed the one thing that helps them also is strong connectedness to friends and family. That helps miles above anything else, even above medication.
Best to you. 🙂
Great post, but who knows whether we live in a utopian future or a desolate wasteland. This post brings an interesting point about the event horizon being really hard to look passed.
With all the technology coming out over the next 20 years it’s hard to predict where we are heading.
Ah, Andre Norton. Spaceships on the covers, warriors on horseback in the pages. (Seems fitting for our present circumstances, though I doubt I’ll actually see the return of equine war bands in my lifetime.) One of my early favorites, but later I went through an all hard SF phase, and after that, Norton seemed to fade into the background during the 70s-80s era of generic fantasy.
@ JMG –
Andrew North, eh?
I agree with you certainly on that. In the Monofuture being built, she certainly built her own niche. I still remember one character, Diskan Fentress, who was deemed slow and stupid by his peers, but yet could communicate with creatures on a strange planet. And then the space witches and warlocks – oh my!
@JMG: Thanks for the “One foot and the grave” story recommendation. I’ll check it out. I really liked his novel “The Dreaming Jewels” … but then I have a soft spot for most fictions that involve circuses and carnivals.
In regards to Patricia’s comment, Lois McMaster Bujold did write a SF romance novel. It’s called “Komar” for the planet it takes place on. Arguably part two is “A Civil Campaign.”
I came across this at work. It seemed like a pertinent article about how complex technology can break down. Shows how the first nuclear project in 30 years became uneconomic.
As an additional comment, I was puzzled about why the Biosphere project became ridiculed. After reading the Archdruid I decided it was because it showed how humans were just not capable of creating Star Trek colonies on other worlds. Even if some of it’s methods were suspect, it was still a massive failure in creating a self-sustaining mini-biosphere.
Ben, of course they ended it that way. I’ve had to fight more than once to have a nonfiction work end without a bunch of drivel about how we can all have a happy future anyway.
Mog, yep. It’s all about appearances and virtue signaling, after all; I think I’ve mentioned the house in Ashland, OR I saw with a fine bank of solar PV panels facing the street…on the northern side of the house, where they did absolutely no good except to feed the owner’s sense of self-righteousness.
JillN, fascinating. I’ll let you in on a secret: most actual UFO sightings don’t have much in common with the narrative about “standard UFO sightings” that has been promulgated so systematically since 1947.
Johnny, thanks for this — Disch is always worth reading, so I’ll have to chase that down.
Excellent piece John.
This piece caught my eye today – looks like the Democratic Party is gearing up to support reparations!
“The issue of reparations is being more seriously considered than at any other time in the upper echelons of political power.
Ms Williamson was not alone on stage in advocating the idea. Both senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris publicly support some form of reparations.
The two senators are joined by other leading Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg and Cory Booker in backing calls for a commission to study how a restitution programme would work.
Wow – if they are real about this Trump has probably won the election.
But any reparations legislation faces an uphill political battle. President Donald Trump and other leading Republicans have publicly criticised the idea, while a 2016 poll suggests more than 80 per cent of white Americans are opposed to the idea of giving monetary compensation to descendants of slaves.”
Looks like the Dems have a political death wish! If this becomes official policy your call that Trump reelection in 2020 looks increasingly like a dead cert!
Looking forward to your post soon on the transition to a non-market based economic arrangements.
Faith in Progress! Lol. I do like it when others tell me that “they” will figure it out and keep on arguing even when I remind them that I am (was) part of the “they” and use numbers in an attempt to show them what reality looks like.
On the flip side, some people who quite rightly do not have Faith in Progress rant against any and all technology and seem to have an anti-science and anti-math bias as well. Sometimes reading the blog entries here have that feel to them (as do some conversations with my father 🤔) which is somewhat disappointing because I have read your works and know you firmly occupy the middle ground. Just because we can’t have industrial society does not mean we cannot do anything.
Have you read David J.C. Mackay’s Sustainability Without the Hot Air? He was a Physicist and it is a thorough, numbers based analysis of industrial society’s predicament. It is available free online. He gives his opinions, without explicitly giving his opinions. Math and Science do not lie.
Tom Murphy’s (also a Physicist) Dothemath blog is also quite impressive and is numbers based as well. Are you familiar with it? Many of the posts there go along quite nicely with this Monofuture post, and a few of his posts are action oriented to minimize our fossil fuel use while continuing to live in Industrial Society.
I recommend both for those of us who want to muddle through what is to come as best we can!
Looking forward to the Peak Oil post.
I would love to see you write a book as the President Dictator of the world, or of even just the United States, to get us from where we are to where we will eventually have to go, while minimizing suffering…starving to death or dying in the elements. You know, Utopia. Lol. It is easy enough, relatively so, as individuals to muddle through, but another thing altogether to govern through this decline. But if you could pretend you were benevolent and all powerful…I for one would enjoy your perspectives.
Onething, regarding the differences between men and women, you might want to read The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexeivich. An oral history, like Mark Baker’s Nam was American Vietnam veterans, these are accounts from the women of the Red Army in WW2. There are differences between men and women, but they’re not necessarily the ones we’ve been conditioned to expect.
Archdruid and David BTL,
I think an essay exploring the idea of the future would be good idea, there are avenues there that should be fully explored. I’ll get started.
Once all the cars are electric–yeah there are some major obstacles on the way to an all electric vehicle future. Will automobiles and trucks currently in use and continuing in production be made illegal? If not, who is going to tell Toyota, Honda, General Motors, et. al. that they can no longer produce vehicles for which there is a continuing demand? You could put prohibitive taxes on gas autos–but unless electrics are affordable that will be a difficult thing to sell to voters. Do these advocates anticipate a government program to subsidize purchase of electric vehicles? Will it be available to everyone? I can’t see citizens of the US letting private transportation become a monopoly of the well off–which is what making gas autos illegal or too expensive would amount to. Nor can I see people supporting government subsidies to buy electrics if they feel choice is being taken away. I can’t speak for other nations, but many Americans see private transportation on government provided roads as a right–there is a bumper sticker that reads “They will pry my gun out of my cold, dead fingers.” I can anticipate one that will read “They will pry my cold, dead body out of my car.”
Far more likely scenario is that gas just gets more and more expensive. Those who can buy electrics, those who can’t switch to bikes, mass transit (maybe there will be a tipping point at which the citizens will force local governments to treat mass transit as a utility rather than a profit making enterprise). In rural areas horses may make a comeback for actual transportation–remembering that they are expensive to keep. And good old shanksmare. Companies that rely on workers being able to commute from a 50 mile radius will have to reconfigure. Zoning laws may change to allow closer mix of work and living. The changes will be piecemeal–some areas hardly affected at all, others looking like a page out of Future World.
Interesting to hear that reasoning behind the lack of buttons on some new tech. I myself have never seen an electric toothbrush without manual controls, but I believe you when you say they’re out there. As for myself, I really like having simple, manual controls on the machines or tools I use – it makes me feel like I’m in charge. Add a bunch of inscrutable software between the user and the tool, and now the machine is in charge – and not only is it less likely to do what you want it to do, it’s more likely to just stop working entirely, and a lot harder to repair if it does.
That’s also why I have never understood the appeal of the Internet of Things. Why add a bunch more failure points into household items that don’t actually need the internet to do their jobs? The circuit-diagram of an old-fashioned toaster is pretty simple: it’s a big resistor; unlikely to break down, and easy to fix if it does. Why trade that for an internet-connected toaster whose more complicated circuit diagram just means it has that much shorter of a lifespan?
Ah, the Fermi Paradox. I figured that someone would bring that up sooner or later. And since it relies on a historical precedent – namely, that nobody has yet come along and colonized the Earth – I think it’s a better argument against the practicality of interstellar migration than just listing the unsolved technical challenges.
There are three main ways to explain the Paradox that usually get bandied about among space enthusiasts; either:
1) Intelligent life is extremely rare.
2) Intelligent life is common, but interstellar flight is extremely rare
3) The Cosmic Zoo Hypothesis – Interstellar civilizations are out there, but they’ve decided to leave the Earth alone, and speculating on the reasoning behind that decision runs the gamut into theology….
I’ve never had faith in spaceflight as an inevitable part of man’s future; I just think it’s part of the range of technological possibilities – given advanced enough technology, you can support human life in space, with the caveat that even a hi-tech life in space will be hard, dangerous, and unhealthy, just like life with primitive technology on many of the less hospitable parts of earth.
There’s a good case to be made against the efficacy of a space colony for more human reasons; namely, the people who settled dangerous environments on Earth usually went there under duress: they were running from the law, or fleeing religious persecution, or making room for a stronger tribe who wanted their land, etc. But if you have a more country on Earth that’s wealthy and stable enough to support a space colony, you probably don’t have colonists desperate enough to go, and vice versa.
I expect that, in the coming decades as the West deindustrializes, starships will continue to figure into the collective imagination of my own generation and my children’s generation as something that an advanced and long-lasting civilization might build. But since advanced and long-lasting civilizations won’t be a part of the world they live in, spaceflight won’t be anybody’s immediate concern.
Of relevance to us oldies: Tony Bennett is 93 today! 🎂
Caryn – great point on relationships in the community. My wife and I both teach at the local HS and are well regarded with students and families–many live in our neighborhood. This is how I try to approach things. There are a lot of things I can do nothing about. But I think I have a pretty good idea of what’s coming down the pike. We have to think about how we can be assets to the community as decline happens.
Nice to see other leftys on here. I do think a part of the progressive mindset involves thinking of a better future, which may explain it being the minority viewpoint on a forum such as this. I mean, I think there are things we can do to somewhat ease the transition (renewables, restorative ag, permaculture), but laws of scarcity, chemistry, and physics are what they are.
Deindustrial society doesn’t scare me. It has been the norm for much of human history. The process of getting from here there very much does.
I was disabused of the myth of progress early on. As a school girl in the 80s I was told there were no jobs so there was no point in applying for them by a teacher. Another teacher told me that graduates in her day (the 60s) had a choice of jobs.
This was a hit from the era that sums things up:
However the dream still has to die for some people. Andrew Yang (Democrat presidential hopeful) has this to say about UBI:
“Andrew would implement the Freedom Dividend, a universal basic income of $1,000/month, $12,000 a year, for every American adult over the age of 18. This is independent of one’s work status or any other factor. This would enable all Americans to pay their bills, educate themselves, start businesses, be more creative, stay healthy, relocate for work, spend time with their children, take care of loved ones, and have a real stake in the future.”
Eh, who is going to pay for this?
John, et alia—
Just as a data point re the contours of the future and how the reality diverges from the envisioned technotopian AI IIOT thingamajig that we keep getting told is inevitable.
My wife and I spent the day roaming the countryside a bit, driving over the backroads and through the small towns that dot this part of NE WI, picking random local watering holes for lunch and dinner, walking the lakeshore, and generally enjoying the day. There is something about farmland and small communities that I find incredibly uplifting.
In any event, I again took note of the many Help Wanted and Now Hiring signs placed out in front of local manufacturing and processing facilities. Farm equipment service, agricultural processors, even some builders. On two occasions I saw a smaller sign nailed to the larger sign, saying “Carpenters Wanted.”
I hope the future we get looks more like this. If policy makers have a grain of sense (and as a local politician myself, I know this can be asking a lot), they’ll take this momentum and run with it.
Re political labels
FWIW I used to consider myself a lefty-liberal. Then I realized that I’m actually off on some skew line that doesn’t even register on the conventional spectrum. (So I get called a socialist and a fascist by turns.)
Rationalist, I really have to wonder about anyone who insists that everything will be fine if we just have internet. There you are in 2045, in an unheated one-room apartment infested by rats, hoping that you can get enough rice and beans that day so you don’t actually go to bed hungry, nervously checking the condition of something that might be skin cancer except that you can’t afford a doctor to be sure, making sure the door is double-bolted because there are gangs going from door to door murdering people to take what little they have — but hey, you’ve got a cheap tablet-equivalent that works most of the time and there’s actually been enough electricity to charge it today, so you’ve got internet and therefore everything is wonderful. Yay!
…and if you don’t think that’s a possible future, by the way, you need to get out more. For many Americans right now it’s not far from the present.
Jeff, hmm! I didn’t remember that. That’s getting in the right direction, at least.
Jamie, agreed. This is why dissensus is so important — since we don’t actually know what will work and what won’t, encouraging as many people as possible to experiment with their own lives is about the best option we’ve got.
Adam, that’s easy: we don’t live in either one. The delusion that treats those as the only two options is one of the major obstacles to clear thinking about the future.
Walt, you might consider giving her another try. I read a couple of her classics earlier this year and was very pleasantly surprised at how good they were: lively, crisply written, and fun.
Oilman, it was precisely her willingness to blend SF and fantasy that made me so fond of Andre Norton’s work back in the day. We could use more of that.
Justin, you’re most welcome. Sturgeon generally is worth repeated readings.
BCV, thanks for this. That and Biosphere II were both clobbered by the same thing: as complexity increases, costs (financial and otherwise) go up not linearly but exponentially.
Forecasting, the Democrats must be desperate. Reparations is a nonstarter in the political sphere generally — it’s got maybe 20% support among voters — and Trump can turn it into a maul to mash the Dems’ political hopes. I can only assume that the Dems are losing their grip on the African-American vote to a much greater extent that anyone outside the party realizes, and they know that if that trend continues, the urban Democratic machines that are the backbone of their present power are at risk of collapse. Talking up reparations only makes sense as a Hail Mary strategy in a really dire situation — they’re willing to kiss off any chance of taking the White House in 2020 in order to hold onto the urban black vote, because if they lose that they’ve lost everything.
Ecodad, I haven’t read Mackay, but I’ll want to fix that. Murphy’s blog is worth a tank farm full of light sweet crude! That middle ground — the recognition that technology is a set of tools, some of which are very useful, and not a surrogate Messiah — is crucial to cultivate just now.
Varun, glad to hear it.
Rita, good. Yes, that makes much more sense, doesn’t it?
Bridge, I doubt it has ever occurred to Yang to figure out how to put his “Freedom Dividend” into practice. It’s not intended to be put into practice; it’s just rhetoric to try to trick the rubes.
David, delighted to hear it. What’s needed is more voices speaking for that momentum, and pointing out that a future with thriving farms, thriving small towns, and a lot of help wanted signs is frankly better than the Monofuture…
Hi John Michael,
Can’t say that I’m much of a fan of Cyberpunk sci-fi either. The authors often get lost in the detail and fail to recall that they need to tell a good story. Interestingly too, the Cyber-chunks (!) of fluff are not dissimilar from Space Bats!
Space 1999 was pretty cool. Last century didn’t end up like they said it would. Although from memory things were not good for people on that moon base.
One of the interesting things about the Boomer Generation is that a large number of them are retiring (or have retired) with debt. I don’t actually understand that story, but it is common enough now. The last I checked the household debt to income ratio down here was about 110%. Many years ago I read a reference to the The World Factbook from you know who, that suggested that one indicator of a failed state was where the debt to income ratio exceeded 90%. It must have been a long time ago that I read that, because you don’t hear such talk nowadays.
Seriously, the increased debt burden looks to me like theft from the future in order to keep up pretenses today whilst real wealth per capita is declining. It always surprises me that few people concern themselves about this. I guess the Monofuture allows no tolerance for side journeys, even when the destination is a nasty fall off a cliff. The sand on the beach below the cliff (if there is sand due to expanding oceans) will be at a much lower standard of living.
DOES anyone remember Sturgeon’s story “It,” about a monster that evolves from garbage in a river and causes no end of trouble? It’s been anthologized several times. Seems a good choice to mention on Ecosophia.
JMG and forecasting intelligence
In regards to reparations and the black vote. I have been thinking for quite a while that Trump will take a higher percentage of the African American vote because of the crack down on ilegal immigration. My wife is a Mexican immigrant. When she first came to the US she lived in Pennsylvania. She tells me that in PA there was lots of hostilityin the black community to Hispanic immigration. The blacks viewed the Mexicans as competition. This is just a guess on my part.
I wasn’t saying things are good and wonderful as long as we have the internet, what I was saying was that I suspect a lot of people are willing to ignore reality as long we have the internet. I suspect this is why it’s getting so much in subsidies….
Caryn and David P., I certainly consider myself on the side of the left as in thinking that nobody merits inheriting much of anything (Brecht’s “the land for whoever is good for it”) and that market relations should be circumscribed to a relatively small share of overall human relations. I find that I my emotional reactions are at odds with those of JMG (and a large parcel of the commenters) on many issues, but I usually consider it useless to discuss this kind of emotional reactions on the internet (such as towards immigrants, Trump and other red flags). I highly prize the discussion of those issues where rationality has some say, such as the economic future, and I prize the reasonable conduction of discussions on this site even higher.
“Rationalist, I really have to wonder about anyone who insists that everything will be fine if we just have internet. There you are in 2045, in an unheated one-room apartment infested by rats, hoping that you can get enough rice and beans that day so you don’t actually go to bed hungry, nervously checking the condition of something that might be skin cancer except that you can’t afford a doctor to be sure, making sure the door is double-bolted because there are gangs going from door to door murdering people to take what little they have — but hey, you’ve got a cheap tablet-equivalent that works most of the time and there’s actually been enough electricity to charge it today, so you’ve got internet and therefore everything is wonderful. Yay! ”
On another note, I find it amusing that nearly everyone seems to think they’ll have access to whatever future internet exists. For subsistence farmers in Ethiopia I doubt the existence of the internet has much of an impact on their life one way or another.
As we become poorer, more and more people will lose internet access. I can’t help but wonder what will happen once it sinks in to people that this includes them…..
Discussion of science fiction here is intriguing. I’ll put my hand up and add myself to the few here who don’t read science fiction. I enjoyed your dissection of genre fiction, JMG. My take on genre fiction in general is that mostly it is ‘comfort reading’. It is all an unrealistic version of reality, and it just depends on what version of unreality you prefer as to what comfort you are seeking. My comfort-read drugs of choice are crime (but only Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Georgette Heyer – nice tidy bodies, no nasty gore) because the idea of justice always prevailing is very comforting, and romance (but only Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen) because the idea that good-hearted, thoughtful young ladies will always live happily ever after is also appealing.
In real life I don’t believe either of these fantasies. My engineer partner is a space and tech nerd and like so many of that ilk, happily reads science fiction fantasies of brave new worlds, but in real life lives a supremely satisfying existence in an off-grid cabin in the bush.
I wonder if one of the reasons we have the Monofuture as our ‘comfort’ future is that the engineers, scientists and tech nerds are our current ‘priests’ so it is their favourite ‘comfort’ genre that has bled into social consciousness as our future reality?
I am interested and encouraged by your remedy, which seems to be to put out alternative ideas of the future into the public consciousness. I very much prefer the Retrotopia future to the Monofuture. I am currently writing a novel which deliberately has your idea of LESS-style living as one of its themes. It’s not set in the future but is nevertheless a kind of Butlerian carnival of simple living. So I am hoping that it will set out on a voyage of its own one day to entice its readers into a different fantasy about how it might be possible to live.
For anyone interested in an alternative view of the future, one of my favourite utopian novels is Marge Piercy’s ‘Woman on the Edge of Time’. Written in the 1970s it contrasts the brutal life of a woman living on the edge in a large US city, with a small community a couple of hundred years into the future. It is an intriguing vision, and you could, by a stretch, imagine the Retrotopians heading their society in that direction..
RE: Yang Freedom Dividend
Yang has published how he intends to put the Freedom Dividend into practice. A lot of what is sparking interest in the guy is his no-nonsense speaking and the how he does seem to back up what he talks about. I think it’s a bit more than just rhetoric.
Look at this page https://www.yang2020.com/what-is-freedom-dividend-faq/ and go to “How would we pay the Freedom Dividen?”
Re colonists not leaving rich places I think *if* they had a working star drive *and* could put folks to sleep in one of those giant colony ship things to go to a known pristine planet (as per many a SF novel) they might get some takers … then again we don’t and we haven’t and there is always Aurora type scenarios.
But as it is ref reality … it reminds me of an old saying ‘Millions long for Heaven who have no idea what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon’ …
Chris, the Boomers spent the 1970s talking about how bad stealing from the future was, and then proceeded to prove the point by spending the 1980s through the present doing it. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any sand left down there at all.
Your Kittenship, I think I must have missed that one! I’ll look for it.
Will O, I’ve heard the same thing. Interestingly, a lot of legal immigrants — including those from Hispanic countries — are just as irritated by the illegal immigration; a common sentiment is “we did it the right way, why are they getting away with breaking the rules?”
Will J, well, and of course there’s that!
Blueday Jo, you may be amused to know that I’ve also read a number of Georgette Heyer romances and have recently completed my first pass through Jane Austen. (My wife’s a major fan of both.) You’re right that they’re comfort reading — though Austen was doing something subtler and more serious in the context of her time, as I see it — reinventing the novel as something that could be about everyday life, rather than the Gothic nonsense she parodied so amusingly in Northanger Abbey. I’ll look forward to seeing your novel in print!
Prizm, fair enough. I’ll take a look.
Warren, yep. And if pigs had wings we’d all catch our Sunday bacon in butterfly nets…
I think (hope) it is a bunch of small acts (and some large acts such as the bank bailouts in 2008) of self-interest always defined by the beneficiaries as being done for the common good. When some people already have so much, to consciously take from poorer people seems beyond the pale.
JMG, I get a weekly “musings report” from Charles Hugh Smith and one of my favorite sections is a series of links to articles and posts he calls “From Left Field.” I like it because there are often links to things I’d never find myself. This week one of the links was to your July 17 post “Progress and Amnesia.” Not sure if you knew, but I’m not completely surprised since he introduced me to your writing.
Mr. and Mrs. Greer, “It” can be found in T. Sturgeon’s Selected Stories.
Does Sara have a blog too? Also, how’s she feeling?
For fun, I asked my Japanese wife, “A lot of Americans think that, in the future, many of us will live in space.
What do you think of that?” She laughed and said, “In Japan, only weirdos want to live in space. Most Japanese people think I’m a weirdo because I left Japan to live in America. ‘Japan has supermarkets. Japan is safe. Japan has everything you could ever want. Why would go abroad? It’s dangerous!’ And, living in space would be too difficult right? It’s really cute Americans think that. You think so positive!”
One thing about the monofuture that I believed in growing up as a Star Trek fan was that everyone else wanted it, everyone else believed in it and everyone else was working toward it. I tend to think that most people who are still fervent believers think in the same deluded, Americentric way.
Granted, Jane Austen is very good at her genre. And I can see no reason why genre fiction can’t also be great literature, although it usually isn’t; the way Austen transposes ordinary life onto the structure of a Gothic novel, with everyday drama and interior revelations instead of Gothic horror is utterly brilliant.
I found Piercy’s novel compelling for something of the same kind of reason – woman transported telepathically to the future, but the future utterly confounds her expectations. The trope is turned on its head..
Has Sara read Georgette Heyer’s crime fiction? My absolute favourite is Death in the Stocks for sheer exuberance and eccentricity of character.
The bees hanging out around your compost operation, even though there are no flowers, are most likely suckling on exudates produced by fungal mycelia running through your compost. Fairly common behavior, if an odd one.
Patricia Matthews said:
” (alas – made do with a biscuit this morning. But the biscuits here are superb. I hope it’s a Southern thing.)”
It is. Welcome to the promised land…😉
Of course I have read you Retrotopia with delight, and I fully agree with you (even before reading your novel) that this attempt of the billionaires to use “disciplinary collars” to control their guards in the midst a social breakdown is childish, there are thousands ways this cannot work
About the Myth of Progress, in the western countries, for the main part of the population, I think it has lost a good part of its appeal, but I think it is still very strong in the emerging countries and in the third world. Look at India or China and their space programs, and the speed they are trying to catch the “western middle class way of life” for all of their population (and it is what all the population, of course, want to have). But they are 4 – 5 billion people working 24/365 to achieve this.
As Walter Benjamin once said about the “Angelus Novus” : “The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This Hurricane is what we call Progress”
The “Hurricane of Progress” is blown by almost all of us, with our way of living, and with the desire of almost all of us to improve the life of those who are very poor, and the own desire of the poors also
Ethically we all want they have what we have, in order to improve their lives = a good health care system, good transportation, meat and fish dishes, cooling and heating for their homes, water 24/365 in the tap, toilets, lighting 24/365, till the earth with machines, elevators, washing machines, refrigerators, etc….We want they “progress” (like in the flag of Brazil)
We are 7,5 billion people, and the “Hurricane of Progress” (the destruction) will never stop due to the conscious, rational or even emotional decision of the people; but of course it will stop when the destruction be big enough; I suppose is your tesis also (and of Spengler and Toynbee)
@JMG, at least for myself, the internet encourages global rather than local thinking. As long as people have internet, they can look up places where life is pretty good, find out what skills are in demand in there, learn them from said internet, and then try moving there. This may not be realistic for most people, and not everything can be learned online, but for certain people, places and skills, it certainly is, and it can give hope to the others.
@Will J, I know you weren’t saying that things are good and wonderful as long as we have the internet. I just wanted to say that many people, myself included, might feel that way.
Much of the focus in your essay is on the technological aspects of the narrative of the Future, but I’d like to examine briefly the political dimension (and by association, the economic dimension, as the two are invariably linked). Both of us have had conversations, it would seem, with the garden-variety globalist who insists that a single, unified world is inevitable. Interestingly, that inevitable unified global system is based on Western liberal values and the economic of perpetual growth.
I wonder if part of the emotional drive behind this vision is due to other characteristics of the Western world, including its religious foundation on Christianity. Not so much Christianity specifically, but on a monotheistic absolutist faith with an omnipotent, omni-benevolent deity. To use some of your previous terminology, if we are the Good People whose values are the Right Values, then our values must ultimately triumph. To accept the possibility of a disparate world where differing nation-states base differing societies on different value sets is unthinkable, because that would imply that our values are not the One True Path. This is, ultimately, an error of objectifying the subjective—taking a set of values that are, in the end, arbitrary in that they are chosen, and positing them as objective realities. (You’ve discussed this before, I believe, with respect to facts versus values. And, I’d suspect, the motivations of the Radiance are similar…)
In any event, the puzzling emotional investment in this vision, I’d suggest, is due in part at least to this connection.
Thanks for the link. When he explains the funding UBI doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.
It’s well known poor people will spend every penny thus boosting the economy whereas the rich just squirrel it away and his scheme is basically wealth distribution which the US desperately needs.
I guess it’s a moot point as he is very unlikely to be president but it’s good to introduce these ideas to the public anyway. The Democrats will fix it so only the status quo candidates get through anyway like they did last time.
I often wonder, especially nowadays, if the Human species itself shall soon go extinct. After all, whether one assumes Society is prejudiced in favor of women over men, or the other way about, if the sexes no longer get along too well they will no longer have children anymore. This is an interesting, though worrying, possibility.
Moreover, for all the talk about overpopulation, we could eventually have the exact opposite problem one day. It would seem that there is an effort to gradually criminalize heterosexual love, or at any rate heterosexual sex these days. Could this actually be motivated by a desire for revenge for the Lavender Affair of the 1950’s, when Homosexuals were persecuted? I wonder about precisely that as well.
The Holy Bible, especially The Old Testament, is truly fascinating to read. Much of it deals with genocide and other forms of cruelty. Mind you, the Fundamentalists, it would seem, get most of their ideological worldview from the Old Testament. It seems they never read that far. At least they never seem to have gotten to the New Testament at all. This is precisely why there is such a fixation on the fate of The State of Israel in the Middle East.
The rock era’s “we don’t know what to make of this” Americana-based band – from Nice, Polite Radio. I liked them very much, too.
@David P, Sounds very good. Yes, my son, the anthropology/civilisations student has told me – the most common and long lasting form of human governance/organisation has been small tribal war-bands. The least common and shortest lived has been democracies.
@David BTL: Yes, lol! I knew that you had said that a few times earlier. I think that’s great. I certainly applaud you following your own convictions regardless of label. Labels are helpful if they happen fit, just for short-hand reference in conversation, but they’re certainly not the Be-Alland End-All and should not be binding.
@Matthias Gralle: Also YES! I think my own philosophies were very strongly influenced by Bertolt Brecht. I remember that particular message from “The Caucasian Chalk Circle”, no? <3 And I also agree – I have friends online and in real life of varying political persuasions. I love intellectual, thoughtful discourse and I don't feel comfortable talking in echo-chambers. This group is one of the best Ive ever found, in spite of, (or because?) we disagree on certain things, it makes me think harder.
On the issue of reparations: I'm actually coming around to like the idea, but an explanation would be far too long and off topic on this thread, so I will save it for the next open post.
Cheers, All, and again – Many heartfelt thanks to you JMG for graciously hosting us in your virtual living room where we can exchange these ideas. 🙂
Just sayin’, if my squalid apartment had plentiful rats, I wouldn’t be dining on just rice and beans.
(But, to forestall being disinvited to future potlucks, I’ll be clear that this applies only to a scenario like the one described, where one is treading the line between making do and outright survival.)
Regarding buttons and dials, it’s an ongoing trend in that direction, not an outright rule. A minimally featured toaster will probably always have a light-dark dial (albeit an unreliable one that wears out and/or burns the toast half the time) as that’s cheaper than adding a control circuit board, which requires a power supply to draw low voltage for the logic circuitry from the AC power, and components to allow the low-voltage circuit board output to control the high power heating coils.
The more “features” are added, though, (think for example of the various timers and choices on a fancy k-cup coffee machine) the more likely the incremental cost to add “connectivity” is low, or perhaps even a cost savings if it replaces manual control mechanisms.
Anything that’s rechargeable and/or runs from a power brick (and thus already operates from lower voltages and probably already has a circuit board for power and battery charging regulation) is ripe for a “download the app!” “feature.” Hence the large number of home electronics products that consist of a block with a speaker grille and one or two enigmatic LED lights on it.
A few years ago, Amazon changed the Kindle e-reader designs from having page-forward and page-back buttons with nice tactile feedback, to requiring a fussy touch-screen tap or swipe to advance pages. Few users wanted that change. But manufacturing buttons that had to last for millions of clicks was expensive. (Especially, the time-consuming reliability testing for each new model or manufacturing partner.) As has been noted here, the popularity of e-books has been declining since, though there are other good reasons for that as well.
Large appliances are also under cost-engineering pressure to go to internal digital control (and then a short step farther to “connected.”) The components needed to make the low-voltage signals from a digital washing machine’s computer chip able to turn on and off the power-hungry valves, pumps, and motors of the machine are complex and expensive, but so are the elaborate electromechanical devices used to do so in old-school machines. (Being billed hundreds of dollars to replace the “timer” on a malfunctioning washing machine tended to cause some surprise and resentment back in the 20th century, when new machines still cost much more than repairing the old ones. That “timer” is actually a large hunk of machinery, a stack of multiple-contact rotary switches with a central shaft connected directly to the “cycle selector” rotary knob and bristling with connecting wires. A discarded broken one makes a good prop for a mad scientist’s laboratory stage set.)
I have in fact seen one electric toothbrush controlled with an app, though it wasn’t an actual commercial product. It was a Kickstarter project, the “SmartBrush.” The idea was instead of brushing one tooth at a time, you bite down on a mouthpiece lined with dozens of small rotating brushes, which would clean all your teeth simultaneously in three seconds. (I pointed out that to spin fifty brush heads against mechanical resistance all at once, the device would need approximately fifty times the motor power of a typical electric toothbrush that spins one brush head. This had not occurred to the developers. For that and other reasons, the project was withdrawn from Kickstarter. One sees this kind of problem often with prospective projects by entrepreneurs who are good at electronics, programming, and 3-D graphic design but are either not so well versed themselves in the laws of physics when it comes to moving parts, or are scammers who expect their backers not to be.)
Re the fixation on the internet
My first thought is that the ‘net retains an attraction in that it is a means by which we can escape the hard facts of our actual reality for the virtual reality we were promised in the Monofuture or whatever variant we invested in (usually involving limitless youth, limitless sex, limitless power, or limitless whatever). So long as I can pretend for a moment that my life doesn’t suck, in other words, I’ll stay plugged in. As I think on it, there will probably be a not-insignificant population who takes this path as we tumble down the back-slope. It is a short term bandage that does nothing to address the underlying issues, but when has that stopped people before?
This may be on or off topic, so delete if necessary.
We may have good deal more to worry about regarding people’s ability to cope with the loss of an ever-progressive future if these three very short clips posted on twitter from a meeting of the Democratic Socialists of America are any indication. Yes, yes, these were probably carefully selected to be the most ridiculous, but if we are indeed a mere 12 years (or 18 months) from complete climate catastrophe and the working class is in desperate need of saving, this group is definitely not going to be the ones with the answers – and yes, I’d say the same thing if it were a right-of-center group instead. Just a hunch, but if you are triggered by murmuring in the crowd or outraged by gendered language from the podium, you’re not going to be able to handle any kind of societal dissolution.
Agree – the UK based Sunday Times today had an interesting article on rise of “Blexit” supporters within the States so you might be right.
Certainly Trump’s approval ratings among hispanics is at 50% if you look at recent polling.
Regarding the monofuture, this article suggests that pesky issue, energy, could kill off the AI dreams within a decade.
In regard to Brexit in the UK, all the signs are that the Johnson government are serious about no-deal. They have done polling and the only way the Tories can win a majority is through a no-deal Brexit because that is the only thing that can crush the Brexit Party and consolidate the bulk of the Leave vote under the Tory banner.
The fall of sterling in the markets suggest traders and finance houses are walking up to this reality. Interesting times!
Kimberley Steele – Re: US being currently the world’s biggest oil producer
We’ve been in that position many times before. The reason that we don’t feel “as rich as the Saudi’s” is that we’re also the world’s biggest oil CONSUMER, and (in 2018) we consumed 1.82 million barrels per day more than we produced. (You may see some stories more recently about how we’ve started exporting oil, and assume that means that we produce more than we consume. Why would be export anything that we also import? It’s apples and oranges: both tasty fruits, but not identical… not all crude oil is the same, and the US has refinery technology that allows us to process some kinds of oil more profitably than other countries can.) Definitions are important: we may import crude, and export gasoline. There have even been some weeks during which we exported more crude than we imported, but the long-term average is more significant. We’re still addicted to foreign oil. The balance is better if we talk about “(North) American oil”, but, technically, Canada is still a foreign country.
Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Canada all produce more than twice as much crude oil as they consume.
No European country (other than Russia) is in the top ten oil producers, and the top ten produce 70% of it all.
Read Retrotopia again today. Remembered an image that is a perfect depiction of arriving in the Lakeland Republic – https://dieselpunksencyclopedia.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/arrival_in_utopia_by_lipatov.jpg
A lot of talk on here about the future of the internet. Of course, its a giant energy suck, but it also has a physical infrastructure that is in a lot of danger due to even a minimal amount of sea level rise very soon https://around.uoregon.edu/content/rising-seas-threaten-coastal-internet-infrastructure-study-says
re: ereaders: I have a touchscreen Kindle, because it was cheaper than purchasing some of the really expensive out-of-print (but public domain!) books I needed for our homeschooling year. It hasn’t been used all that much. Getting rid of the actual buttons didn’t even solve the problem you mention: now, you just wear out the part of the screen that gets touched most often for page turning. My screen has “dead zones” that I have to work around :(.
re: appliances with circuit-boards: We have lately been trying to figure out how to de-engineer my sister’s dryer. It is the newer sort, and its circuit-board is getting senile. She has to go through all kinds of strange maneuvers to convince the thing to work, and the cost of replacing the demented computer component is more than it costs to replace the whole dryer. We’re trying to see if we can salvage one of those big crazy timers from an old broken machine and swap it out for the circuitry. My brother, who has done a lot of appliance repair, says that however cheap the manufacturing cost is for “smart” appliances, it is always, always dumb to put electronic brains into heat-generating things like dryers and kitchen ranges. Heat and computers don’t mix: the circuitboards get baked. Some of the newer ovens need those boards replaced every year or two… and on the repair side, that board is the most expensive part of the appliance.
Jmg, speaking of unusual futures, would any of Ursula k. Leguins works count?
I remember one story she wrote “solitude” where the is a planet that has been in a dark age for thousands of years after its civilisation, ,which consisted of a mega city which covered most of the planet, collapsed. All the people left keep social organisation to a minimum because they now think that group socialisation beyond a certain minimum is a kind of “black magic” since they vaguely remember that it was because of forming big groups that the fallen civilisation existed in the first place, and just like with ours it wasn’t as nice as they liked.
@Chris at Ferndale
“Seriously, the increased debt burden looks to me like theft from the future in order to keep up pretenses today whilst real wealth per capita is declining. It always surprises me that few people concern themselves about this. ”
It’s hardly surprising. The wonder, at least to me, is that more boomers aren’t in trouble. As we boomers grew up there was an almost total lack of financial education That’s understandable because what need is there for saving and managing money in a world that’s only going to keep getting brighter and shinier? The money will come, just keep the faith. In a world where filling liesure time will be (was supposed to be) the major preoccupation, why would anyone wory about debt ratios ?
We were indoctrinated in this religion of progress by our parents – the “greatest generation”. Of course it was up to us to look about and notice the difference between the Catechism and reality. We didn’t do that. Later boomers are starting to figure it out. Too late for the early boomers who didn’t grasp reality in time.
Meanwhile younger generations are, as Mike Rowe might put it, borrowing money they can’t afford to pay back to be trained for jobs that don’t exist. (paraphrasing) But their credit card balances are even bigger than their student loan debts. Talk about borrowing from the future.
Kimberley Steele – Re: oil consumption (again)
The US consumes about 0.061 barrels of oil per day per resident, which is about twice that of Germany, Spain, France, Ireland, UK, Denmark, etc. (but less than Canada). So, if US residents could cut their consumption to the level of residents of these wretched nations, we could export 8 million barrels per day, almost as much as Saudi Arabia exports, more than Russia exports, and more than Canada produces.
This statistic is “per oil capita consumption” which I assume includes industrial uses, including “oil used to produce oil/gas/coal” (e.g., diesel engines running drilling rigs and pumps, for example).
“Am I the only person here who does not read science fiction and never has? I’m thinking I may be in a party of one. Actually, I don’t read fiction of any kind, ..”
NO! I can’t stand it.
Although I did read Dune and I, Robot over 40 years ago and a bit of fiction in my extreme youth, many of which I remember fondly.
I do see the value of good fiction…but it isn’t for me.
I’ve been disabused of the “pristine planet” trope since childhood – the summer that I was eleven years old, I spent a bunch of my free time reading a college textbook or two on cellular biology, and realized just how complicated organic chemistry was, and how we’re dependent on our environment to have compatible amino acids, and so forth, in order to stay alive. Needless to say, a planet where life develops independently would have completely different biochemistry; hence, no earth life could survive there. And since a planet with no life whatsoever will have no soil and no oxygen, we’re out of luck on that front as well.
I’ve heard Elon Musk, when talking about making Mars habitable, describe the planet as “a fixer-upper.” It’s the mother of all understatements, but “fixer uppers” are the only kinds of planet that we’re ever going to find. I read KSR’s Mars Trilogy as a teenager, and have since come to regard it as overly optimistic, but one thing he gets right is that, if Mars is ever to be terraformed, it will be done the same way Earth was terraformed: by the gradual actions of a near infinite diversity of life forms, with lichens to turn the rocks into soil, blue-green algae to make oxygen out of carbon dioxide, and so forth. Mankind would direct and oversee the process, but the actual work would be done by the whole array of terragen life.
This ‘man as gardener and overseer’ idea seems to comport well with the anthropocentric religions that dominate Western thought, going clear back to the passage in Genesis where God says that man will “have dominion over” all the other life forms. In the Druidical faith, on the other hand, where man is just one leaf on the tree of nature, that notion is probably a heresy.
I’m not saying this to disparage one religion or the other, I just think it’s kind of neat to observe the ways that our beliefs subconsciously shape our outlook on life.
Thanks for sharing the story about your Japanese wife. Even before I heard of Spengler and “Faustian Civilization,” I had realized that not everybody shared the Western desire for infinite expansion, and the prime example that convinced me of this was Hokkaido: The Japanese had lived right next to this island for two thousand years, but they didn’t colonize it until the 19th century, when they became worried that the Russians would get there first.
Most people, it seems, don’t do migration for its own sake. They migrate only under distress. And that’s what lies behind the idea I tried to flesh out in one of my earlier comments, that if a non-Faustian civilization ever puts a colony in space, it will probably be a penal colony.
@Will Oberton –re black resentment of Hispanic immigrants. Several years ago now, The Atlantic Monthly published an article about the conflict in interests between the African-American and Hispanic communities. I won’t try to summarize it but one part that stuck in my mind was the idea that white Americans found Hispanics less threatening in service positions that brought them into actual white neighborhoods, such as landscaping, pool cleaner, housecleaning, small contractors. Simply put, black men, especially, are scary to many white people and brown people are less so.
My son used to live and work in Arizona and, being in construction, had a lot of contact with Hispanic workers. He also reports that legal migrants and 2nd and later generations, not to mention those whose ancestors lived there before mine got off the ship, do not want more competition for jobs. So they do not support open borders.
re Wang’s universal income scheme. It seems very neo-Bellamite to me. Ralph Bellamy wrote a Utopian novel _Looking Backwards-_ in 1888. It was a best seller, exceed only by Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Ben Hur. The basic concept was that as companies consolidated into larger and larger monopolies and trusts they would eventually become one large company and that every citizen would become a shareholder. Everyone would get an equal share of the GNP and would be required to contribute a certain amount of labor per year during prime adult years. There were many details about lifestyle and culture, how people would choose careers and so forth, but that is the gist of it. Bellamite clubs were formed across the country to discuss and further the idea. There were many similar books and some with opposing ideas, some prominent people were fans, but I don’t think any major politician ever ran on a Bellamite platform.
In the wake of the recent mass shooting I would recommend an old blog with several posts about guns, regulation, realistic scenarios, etc. The blog is https://sergeantvan.com/ The author was active duty US Army at the time and had actually lived in Aurora CO (the movie theater shooting) some years earlier. Anyhow I think the posts are informative and worth reading by anyone who is planning to plunge into the gun regulation argument.
Looks like they’ve given up on jet packs and are developing hoverboards instead. I don’t expect to see them at Walmart anytime soon; sounds too risky and painful.
French Hoverboard Inventor Successfully Flies Over the English Channel
Ryan, interesting. I don’t read Smith regularly but he’s a smart guy with a very thoughtful view of things.
Your Kittenship, duly noted! No, she doesn’t have a blog, though I’ve tried to talk her into one, and her health is doing about as well as it ever does in the summer — not good, not bad.
Dennis, that makes enormous sense to me.
Blueday Jo, the thing that fascinates me most about Austen’s fiction is the sense of freshness — it’s like being there as the modern novel is being invented out of the raw materials of the older genre of (Gothic or other) romance. It’s like watching the first bird take to the skies. Yes, Sara’s read Heyer’s mysteries — as far as I know, she’s read everything Heyer ever wrote, including those really awful contemporary “women’s problem”
novels she did at the beginning of her career. The mysteries share a shelf with Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers.
DFC, the hurricane of progress, like hurricanes generally, is a temporary phenomenon caused by a powerful but short-term concentration of energy. As the fossil fuels that made it possible run out, it’ll give way to calm.
Rationalist, then you’re one of the few. The main effect of the internet on thinking that I’ve noticed is that it encourages the kind of echo-chamber thinking that can’t handle disagreement — have you noticed the way that as the internet has become more pervasive, people melting down over simple disagreements of fact or opinion have become far more common, and the capacity to have a discussion when everyone doesn’t already agree has become rare? My point, though, is that the internet is a luxury compared to things like food, shelter, health care, and personal safety, and overemphasizing its importance in contrast to necessities isn’t helpful.
David BTL, that seems quite plausible to me.
Bridge, if the Democratic establishment pulls another round of ballot fixing this time Trump will walk all over them, and the Democratic party may not exist for long thereafter, as its supporters pull out and organize something different.
Twin Ruler, you’re paying way too much attention to the privileged classes in a handful of Western countries that have the leisure to get into these conniption fits about gender. Meanwhile all over the rest of the world, and among the working classes in the Western world as well, men and women go on getting married and raising children just as they always have. Humanity won’t go extinct any time soon, but certain privileged classes may…
Patricia M, thanks for this!
Walt, I’ve been told that rat’s pretty tasty if it hasn’t been eating anything too rank recently. Haven’t tried it myself, though.
David BTL, that would make a great piece of deindustrial fiction.
Beekeeper, funny. Thanks for this.
Forecasting, I’d encourage you to keep an eye on the African-American, Hispanic, and gay male demographics as the US moves toward the 2020 election. Trump is making major inroads in all these sectors, not least because of the way the Democrats have been treating the members thereof. As for Brexit, it certainly looks from this side as though Boris has the bit in his teeth and doesn’t propose to let himself be distracted. It should be entertaining!
Yorkshire, thank you for this! If there’s ever enough interest to have an illustrated edition of Retrotopia, I’d love to have line art like that through it.
David P, also a very good point.
J.L.Mc12, some of her later work was painfully politically correct, but other than that, yes, she did some amazingly divergent futures. One of the great, no question.
Lady Cutekitten of Lolcat said: First Baptist Churches sprout like dandelions in the U.S., but when have you ever seen a SECOND Baptist Church?
There is a Second Baptist Church in my midwest town, and like JMG’s example, it is a black congregation. From what I’ve seen they are thriving. The white First Baptist Church recently sold their large building and are now meeting in the chapel of another denomination’s church. First Baptist was an American Baptist Church (that’s what used to be Northern Baptist). It looks like another shrinking mainline church. The Southern Baptists have moved north, and they have recently added onto their building, doubling it in size. Perhaps the South has won after all…
I just heard a radio advertisement for ADT (security products) that started with “Fact: We all love video doorbells”. I’m like wha???
Re mass murders, I wonder how many of those guys were subjected to powerful psychoactive drugs as boys?
Also I wonder if one of our favorite villains here, Cognitive Dissonance, might play a role. What might it be like for a young man to be told all his life that he lives in The Greatest Country In The World and then one day he wakes up to reality? That doesn’t drive most of us off the deep end to mass murder, but if a person was already mentally shaky…
Hi John Michael
Thanks again for a yet another stimulating and insightful post.
It’s interesting that the topic of the internet has come up in the comments. The first thing that came to my mind when I read your sentence, “What sequence of events will deliver that awkward but inescapable lesson to believers in the Monofuture is an interesting question…”, was that perhaps loss of internet services would be a major factor for many people.
It may just be my experience in the bubble of middle class life in a wealthy western country, however, most people I observe these days appear totally enamoured with the internet. They hold it (the services and content it hosts) up as the prime example of how clever we humans are in the way that putting a man on the moon used to be cited. It appears that so much of many people’s lives these days is mediated via internet services. I see a lot of psychological and also plain functional living-of-life dependence on the internet. Your comment that, “the internet is a luxury compared to things like food, shelter, health care, and personal safety”, may be telling here. In my bubble, I don’t think that many people appreciate that the internet is a luxury. It’s just yet another thing we deserve.
Loss of internet services and content due to expense, accessibility or reliability issues may be a little while off, however I wonder how psychologically crushing it will be to many people when it happens to them and thus if it will have any significant effect on their faith in the monofuture. I recall a hell of a lot of rabid push back to you on the ADR when you suggested a bunch of times that the internet is fragile and when it’s ascendency is over it will be no great loss and life will go on.
I couldn’t quite figure out your take on the quotations on ecofascism, but I was quite disheartened by it. There are some very nefarious plans to destroy and bring chaos to American and actually western society, as if we don’t have enough problems. The things they conflated do not even go together, in my opinion, but this terrible harping on racism and the vilification of white people is heartbreaking and destructive at the time when there is less racism than ever. It is exactly the wrong direction. It will encourage the worst elements in society, those who are normally suppressed. Vengeance and hatred and judging people by their group association are how very bad things happen. We were moving past all that beautifully and now they are trying to recreate conditions for violence and division. As for white supremacists, they exist but are a rather small fringe. I have seen plenty of strong criticism of Israel and zionism, but not antisemitism.
Speaking of transhumans, it amuses me to no end that everyone seems to think their DNA ought to be used….
Fancy having books by Agatha Christie, Georgette Heyer and Dorothy Sayers all on your bookshelves. Lucky duck. I gave my mother’s to my daughter and am missing them. Might have to frequent the op shops to regroup. Do you have any by Elizabeth George?
Wesley, your comment points to an interesting fact: In articles and books about the migration of early humans out of Africa it is sometimes averred that they did it out of curiosity and entrepreneurship, which are principles which in this way are unique to the Faustian culture and not realla appliable elsewhere. And then there are the example of human groups and species which remanines more or less isolated from each other for long times.
Today’s working class – emphasis on the young workers: https://melmagazine.com/en-us/story/what-the-new-generation-of-working-class-americans-will-look-like?utm_source=pocket-newtab
If Sara ever does decide to start a blog, on whatever topics she chooses to explore, I for one will be signing up to read it tout suite…
The monofuture may be more persistent in people’s imagination than some here suppose. Among the ruins of one failed technology, another failure is promoted.
“Among the Government-backed endeavours is a huge test course for flying cars, built in an area devastated by the 2011 tsunami, quake and nuclear disasters in Fukushima, in north-eastern Japan.”
@Lady Cute Kitten:
I think you’re right, Cognitive Dissonance on many issues is likely a contributing factor for these people snapping. I do think sensible gun regulation is a good thing, it can mitigate the problem, but it’s not going to stop it altogether, maybe not even by 50%. I don’t know. Our citizenry are freaking out – but most of us don’t know why we’re feeling this way. We are also bombarded with conflicting and confusing messages from our leaders and media. It’s hard for an individual to combat.
@ALL, I’m also reminded of a quip. I think it was in fact from JMG, (paraphrasing because I’m too lazy to go back through the last few months’ posts to try and find it):
“The loss of privilege, (or even the perception of such loss) feels every bit like persecution to the person losing (or perceiving the loss of) that privilege”. Of course that person will fight back as hard as they can and feel perfectly justified in doing so.
I think that sentiment is well worth meditating on for each of us in the developed Western World. Or as one former therapist once offered “Try this on, like a gossamer shirt – if it fits, if it applies to you; you have to own it and work through it, work through those emotions and change or come to some peace with it. If it simply doesn’t fit, great! you can take it off and not think about it anymore – that’s not one of your problems”.
& I think the spectre, the baggage of racism does play a part in this, (possibly sexism too). I don’t think it’s an accident that so many of these shootings keep happening by the hands of young white males – they more than any other demographic have been taught from birth that they are “better”, “exceptional”, more is expected of them – no excuse, so if one’s life and achievements are not up to society’s expectations – it must be a personal failure. “You must be a faulty person. You’ve been given every advantage and you’re STILL a F-up, not rich not successful, no beautiful wife/girlfriend….”
Of course that’s young white males….
@Onething: PERHAPS the same conundrum above applies to many more / that people of colour, or LGBTQ – are more clinging to their ‘otherness’, their traditional handicaps to explain to themselves – why the same (lack of progress & success in a ever-upward & successful world) is happening to them? “The economy is the best it’s ever been! Jobs are everywhere! Progress! Upward and onward! Why are YOU struggling? Must be a personal failure. You must be just a loser”.
I DO think there are certain areas in which we white people are privileged, certain areas where racism is still a problem, (I have examples if needed); but you’re right in that, overall it is miles above decades and centuries past in changing laws as well as hearts&minds and should be to a degree that is surmountable. It’s not 100%, I don’t blame them for continuing to push for equality in laws and acceptance, but yeah. It should be surmountable.
As for the loss of the internet – well, for MEEEE at age 57, I’ve lived more of my life without it and I will get over it’s loss in short order; but I do fear for some younger generations who have not developed their IRL (in real life) communications , general “adulting” (basic transactions like buying stuff, going to a bank teller, mailing a letter….), and most importantly social skills. Online discussions (like this one!! LOL) are great, but they do not replace the connection one gets from IRL friendships. But/So when younger people who have never been able to develop those IRL connecting skills lose their online friends….? That is going to be chaos for them, ergo for us all, no?
A few years ago I had a washing machine that would fail to start its spin cycles automatically, but would spin just fine if you stopped and re-started the machine (pulling the timer/cycle-setting knob out and push it back in) at those points in the cycle. This had to be done four times per load, twice between the wash and rinse cycles (after the wash water drained but before it began refilling for the rinse) and twice for the final spin after the rinse. (Twice, because the first spin interval would include a rinse water spray and the second would not.) It had already been my practice, based on common advice for getting better cleaning, to allow the machine to fill, and mix in the detergent, before adding the clothes. So I was essentially intervening at almost every change in the cycle. I set a kitchen timer to remind me when the next step was due. I kept using it that way for over a year, until I found a basic replacement for practically nothing.
But of course, that was still a lot easier than washing clothes by hand.
I started thinking of the washing machine as a collection of three valves (fill hot, fill cold/rinse spray, drain), one pump (drain), one motor (agitate and spin), and one clutch (agitate or spin). If there had been just a separate switch or lever for each component it wouldn’t have made much difference. The main benefit of the washing machine is the motor that agitates and spins. That’s what saves the manual labor. The complex part of the system, the “automatic” part, only saves you from having to pay attention or understand what you’re doing.
De-engineering your sister’s dryer sounds like an interesting project, and the experience could also become a useful skill. One concern I see with that is that unlike with a washer, dryer controls aren’t just about timing. You’ll need to retrofit or make a temperature control for the heater, and also a backup high-temperature cutout for fire safety. (The necessary thermostats, set for typical “high” and “low” drying temperatures, are available from appliance parts dealers, and inexpensive.)
Pertinent to our 100% renewable, carbon-free electrified future:
This is high-level and early in the process yet, but I did note that in the list of things to be considered a distinct absence of any mention of energy conservation or reduction in energy consumption…
Re: The Internet,
Not much different than TV. In the sense that people are looking for something to entertain themselves with. Any gov’t worth their weight in salt will provide bread and circuses, and the Internet is a great way to do that. You can sit there all day and watch Honey Boo Boo and read TMZ and then go drink up some MSM propaganda and end up the useful idiot the powers that be need you to be. No, the Internet is too useful to the people up top.
When it comes to useful stuff on the Internet, Western censorship of the Internet is just getting started. 8chan just got shut down. Big tech (Google, Facebook) are rigging what you see to shield the Democrats. Government organizations are scrubbing their websites of inconvenient data that don’t fit the current desired narrative (Kamala Harris’ prosecution record, for example, went missing in a convenient “website redesign” pretty much immediately after Gabbard took her down in debate).
I will also point out that Google is pretty much scrubbing pre-2005 websites from their results.
Now in light off all this, consider that K-12 education is beginning to become Internet centric… most high schools have eschewed textbooks in favor of one-to-one Chromebooks, and this is starting to reach down through middle school even into grades 5-6 now. No, the Internet will stick around as long as there is a gov’t that needs to control discussion and narrative. And people will sit in their cold, dangerous apartments soaking up the mindlessness.
An interesting wrinkle in the “apocalypse-as-an-excuse-to-not-do-anything” narrative:
Dear Violet and Onething, The article linked and quoted by Violet is, IMHO, an example of manipulative disingenuousness such as we have been seeing lately from Zionists and many others as well. Indeed, our public and online spaces are infested with this sort of impudent propaganda. OTOH, my opinion about the far right is, in general, guys, grow up already! Most of us don’t get to be Important, so what makes you special?
I do think, Onething, that much of the public is fed up with this sort of thing. The fact that the National Socialists, whose time in the sun occurred before I was born and I am retired, may have promoted some form of environmentalism induces in me a bored so what? And articles like the piece of impudence linked to by Violet will not persuade me to spend one minute less in my garden or one cent more on mass produced products I neither need nor want, and that does not mean I am anti whatever might be the religion or national identity of someone who might have money invested in said products.
I think what is at the bottom of this sort of thing, as well as of much of leftist anger is the simple fact that most of us don’t have any money left. If you were promised, or assumed, that you get to prosper from selling crap to dummies, what happens when the dummies are broke? Furthermore, immiseration of the working class, all segments, has gone on for so long now, that I suspect that the modest improvements of the past few years will not bring about a return of former spending habits. I live in a working class neighborhood and I have also seen the help wanted signs and improvement of jobs, BUT, I am not seeing much uptick in consumer spending. I suspect that, just maybe, wage earning Americans have finally learned caution in the management of our financial affairs, just as we have finally come to realize how much overseas adventurism has cost us.
Well, in any event, I wonder if more and more people will slowly decide not to go off to College or University anymore? After all, most of what they teach is Postmodernist Drivel: the idea that Science is a Man’s way of perceiving the world, and a White Man’s way of perceiving it at that.
Moreover, I perceive Multiculturalism/Political Correctness as merely hatred against Whites for being White. Still, as much as I resent it, I do see it as a very interesting phenomenon. After all, it is an umbrella group, which includes Blacks who hate Whites, Browns who hate Whites, Yellows who hate Whites, and Native Americans who hate Whites. I wonder what would happen if and when Whites decide to no longer go to Higher Education anymore?
Re the role of naysayers in the narrative of Progress
Buried in the comments of this post on Trump’s approval rating
I found this gem of a comment (referring to an experience of encountering a well-educated Trump supporter):
Sadly, there are many trump supporters like that. We like to paint them all as ignorant rubes in rural hamlets or socially isolated whites in crumbling old towns rusting from post-industrial economic change – but a non-insignificant portion of trump supporters are otherwise normal and intelligent people who for whatever reason (racism? chauvinism? poor understanding of economics? Lack of loyalty to American principles of good government, decency, and fair play?) support a completely horrible person for president. I know several in my own family. It’s revolting.
I found the presumptions re “ignorant rural rubes” and “rusted crumbling towns” interesting. The notion that people might be seeking to reverse the trends that have produced that suffering appears lost on the commenter–which is to be expected since Progress is, of course, an unstoppable force and one must, after all, be on the Right Side Of History…
Can mushrooms help bees?
Oh, nothing in your essay suggested to me you thought the Monofuture had passed out of fiction in the eighties – that opinion is all mine, if a truly original space opera has been written since then I don’t know of it. Plenty of political thrillers in space, but an actual space opera? I’d love to read one if it exists.
Twin Ruler, I suspect it depends very much on how the most successful cultures deal with the limits to growth. If they focus on efficiency, keeping as much complexity as necessary and streamlining everything else, and transition to an economic model which takes its resources from inside it’s controlled territory, I suspect women will have as much of an economic advantage as men did in the nineteenth century. If the successful cultures gain most of their resources from outside their own territory, I suspect the opposite will hold true – gender specialisation is very complex, but it seems to map tolerably onto whether one’s work is inside or outside the tribe’s territory. In general I would predict that Chinese and Sobornost cultures will have more wealth controlled by women, while Indian and Tamanous cultures will have more wealth controlled by men, but the particulars will likely depend very much on how the decline is (mis)managed.
Re: loss of the internet – probably inevitable eventually. The part I’m really going to miss is how much I have learned to actually do with my hands off of YouTube. Just last week hubby hit a rock with the lawnmower, snapping a belt. We bought the part and replaced it after watching a YouTube tutorial on how to do it. I didn’t grow up being taught how to do anything like this, it’s all learned online + real life trial & error.
David BTL – I am an older millenial (born 1983). As a school teacher, I have a modest public retirement account that I supplement with a 403b, but I don’t actually expect anything to be there when I’m of retirement age. I have no faith in our political, economic, or climate systems to hold onto stability that long.
This will be even worse for the generation of my children, whom I love dearly but may have made different decisions about had I been a little more aware 10 years ago. I have no idea how to prepare them for the future.
Saving and retirement is part of the monofuture….the idea that we should have hopes and dreams of a better future in our old age. While we should all take prudent steps for our safety and security, the idea of retirement, like the rest of the monofuture, is an idea not long for this world.
@JMG re “Deviant Science”
Don’t recall hearing about it before – thanks for the pointer.
I’ve heard of the ideas before (that mainstream science rejects psi out of ignorance…) in a workshop with Rupert Sheldrake down at Esalen some years ago just before he released his book “The Science Delusion” (UK) aka “Science Set Free” (US) – which I haven’t got to read yet (either).
Hi Twin Ruler,
A lot of multiculturalism is salary-class whites who hate wage-class whites.
@Violet, re: the eco-fascist info you’ve reported to us:
Wow, that’s just really weird. I know a ton of far-left folks, (some I happily call my friends) who I hyperbolically call “eco-fascists”, (they can take a joke), anti-plastic straws, vehemently anti-Sea-World or zoos, (anti-any animals in captivity), adamant vegans….. they mostly, as I said are also politically very far left and self-identify or are at least very switched on to current LGBTQIA and POC issues. Incidentally, all the ones I know are white, don’t know if that matters, or if it is representative but they are. Some pointedly are not averse to Norse mythology either. Many of us American-mutts have at least SOME Swedish/Norwegian/Danish “Viking” in our ancestry somewhere. Norse mythology is actually pretty cool, I hope it can avoid being politicised.
Anyway, I just got this weird vision in my head of the two groups bumping into each other, facing off in a Quentin Tarantino style circular firing squad with each hostile person not knowing who’s side they’re on, who to shoot at first until it dissolves into a farcical comedy.
Yikes! Talk about yer ‘Cognitive Dissonance’!
Caryn – Thank you for sharing the concept that unsuccessful young white males can’t claim discrimination for their lack of success. My own son, though, seems to have good reason to be angry at uncontrolled immigration. It’s not just a scapegoat for laziness. He was born with some cognitive impairments; not enough to prevent competing in the Real World, but enough to make it hard. He can read, but not with as much confidence as one might expect from a college graduate. So, he’s looking for blue-collar employment, and furious that “must speak Spanish” is a general requirement. In a world of educational meritocracy, where do we find honest, productive labor for those unfortunate enough to be in the bottom half of the Bell Curve, when those jobs are filled with smart, ambitious immigrants willing to break the law to get ahead? (In fact, he does have a job, and while noting that he’s the only white male on the crew, this is not apparently a source of friction.)
Looking at what’s happening to the world global trading/financial system now, as well as to the EU, to the Middle East, to theUS social/political system, to China, to Russia, to Kashmir (India and Pakistan) etc. etc. it could be that future historians will point to some point in 2019 (perhaps today) as when the Great Collapse became irreversible, as when it became clear that globalization failed.
Sure hope I’m wrong.
on reparations. there was a time when abolition of slavery would not get you enough votes on a national platform to “win,” and there was a time when women’s suffrage, etc. there is such a thing as trying to lay the groundwork for something that “should” be done. if the groundwork is never laid, it will never happen. the weird thing is, as williamson points out, we did actually have this moment in the immediate aftermath of the civil war, but it was pushed aside through a hundred odd years of domestic terrorism.
Interesting article from Slate, a left-of-center website: “Mass Shooters Aren’t Disproportionately White”. It does seem as if white guys are busy shooting everything up, but it looks like crime statistics tell a more nuanced story.
I have read that the Dayton shooter was a supporter of Elizabeth Warren and an admirer of Antifa based on information gleaned from his social media accounts, but I haven’t seen it from enough reliable sources that I’d be willing to bet on it. If it turns out to be true, there won’t be a hint of it on NPR though.
There’s a move afoot against ‘white’ history/science/literature at universities. (Is math next? Is there white math? I don’t know). Quillette published an article about Australian colleges trying not to upset Indigenous students by teaching the generally accepted (and white?) theory that their ancestors arrived on the continent from somewhere else, because this clashes with Indigenous creation stories that claim they have been there forever.
There is growing evidence BoJo is planning for a no-deal Brexit. Johnson has made it clear he will not renegotiate a deal with the EU.
In addition, it’s telling that in the new cabinet, Michael Gove, a senior leader of the Conservative Party who was Environment Secretary in the Theresa May government and has been mentioned as a possible future prime minister, has been given a ceremonial position as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, but in reality, his job is to make preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
Just to brighten things up a little—fellow perspiring writers, how are your projects going? I’m up to Chapter 11 and still having fun.
“I don’t think it’s an accident that so many of these shootings keep happening by the hands of young white males – they more than any other demographic have been taught from birth that they are “better”, “exceptional”, more is expected of them – no excuse, so if one’s life and achievements are not up to society’s expectations – it must be a personal failure.”
On the contrary, what they have been taught from birth is that they are not wanted, not appreciated, that girls are more deserving, that their masculinity is the source of evil and that there is no masculine ideal.
Consider too, that if it were true that whites were taught this exceptionalism, that it was far stronger in the past and we didn’t have shootings then?
It seems to me people are way too trusting of the media narrative, even though we know that we are lied to constantly.
Thank you for your wishes. Death itself, whenever it should come, I am sure will be great. What I fear is that this horrid alien life form is making me quite uncomfortable and could become most unpleasant.
I am in Mexico one week. I wasn’t going to say anything until I had more of a feeling of how its going. But I am quite impressed with this clinic. One thing I have discovered since arrival is that the 3-week program is a best case scenario and many people are staying extra weeks. I had a hard time financing this much, and may do a GO Fund Me campaign. But I don’t see the point until I feel a bit clearer as to my chances.
Tripp, thank you.
JMG, Hope you enjoy it. Disch is another of those SF writers who bailed on the genre some time during the 80s to write mysteries and horror. Barry Malzberg is another one I know who did that. I think Malzberg’s brilliant “Remaking Of Sigmund Freud” (which casts a critical eye towards the notions of fame and legacy) was his last SF title. Malzberg also has a good insider SF work(with Mike Resnick). It’s structured more like a how to but is full of random stories about how things worked behind the scenes. I would imagine you would be very familiar with much of it.
To the discussion of disadvantaged people I can add a curious factor: The left seems to be obsessed by the importance of race as one of the most important factors in anything so that there is no real attempt to get over racism by making race something unimportant. And this inbuilt racism of the left increasingly is turning against whites, with sometimes farcical and absurd consequences in (mostly American) academia. I have read somewhere that leftist students demanded separate housing for black students; the farce here is about reading leftists students demanding a sort of Jim Crow.
@ David P
Understood. I’m an X-er myself and have learned, along with most of my generation, that trusting the system earns you a good kick in the teeth. Got “right-sized” from my first job out of college three years in. It was a tough lesson. Like the tag line of “Paranoia!” says, trust no one and keep your laser handy.
However, prudent action is still called for, as you said. Perhaps it is that different people see different things as prudent.
As a public worker, I am fortunate to have access to a pension (and I’m even more fortunate to be part of what is likely the most stable and well-funded state pension system in the country). My wife and I also put money aside in deferred comp. We set aside savings. Social Security? I leave it out of my core planning numbers, but that is more the sake of buffering than anything else, as the system will still be around in some form when I reach retirement age. (What I *do* fully expect and have assumed in my planning is that the projected 25% haircut we’ll all have to take when the trust fund runs dry will indeed happen. I have zero faith that Congress will solve the looming issue beforehand.) But at the same time, we will have our house paid off in another five years or so and have an absurdly low amount of debt over-all. We also live very modestly and continue to make efforts to reduce our consumption.
So perhaps you and I are saying something similar, but from different angles. I have never thought of retiring in the sense of I reach 60-whatever and stop working. Rather, I’d thought to transition from full-time work to part-time work at a certain point. Years ago, I’d rather hoped to be teaching mathematics at the nearby 2-year UW campus. Given the trajectory of higher ed, I have doubts the campus will even be there ten years from now. Perhaps this writing thing will take off instead. We’ll see.
But to do *nothing* on the basis of “we’re all doomed anyway, so why bother” does seem rather foolish to me. If there is one thing I’ve learned from the discussions here and from examining the historical occurrences of these patterns, it is that there is far more continuity in the decline as it unfolds than one imagines. The slow, gradual, stutter-step collapse retains elements of the system far longer than one might think. Thus, our individual lifetimes will see considerable change, but also enough constancy to make hedging “within the system” as useful as hedging “outside the system.”
Hi John Michael,
It was actually the book Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson (which you alerted me to, and a great book that it is) which tipped me off to how difficult sandy beaches just might be in the future. But the debt thing is just what I’m seeing playing out and the cliff is the cliff no matter how anyone looks at it. Will it be the end, nope, just a nasty big bump in the road to a lower standard of living.
I thought you might be interested in this little titbit: Billie Eilish sells 4,000 cassettes of her debut album as sales reach 15 year high. Fancy that, huh? The young lady and her brother are also astounding talents as well.
Dear Mr Greer
There has been some talk on here about environmentalists being called fascists and Nazis. Probably one of the greatest environmental destroyers, because they exist in such large numbers, is the private car and the motorways (Feeways) that were built to enable them to travel about. The first motorway was completed in Fascist Italy in 1924. The Nazi’s were also famous for promoting car ownership and building an extensive motorway (Autobahn) system. They managed to build 2373.5 miles before war stopped construction in 1941. There were something like 26000 prisoners involved in autobahn construction by 1940. The British by contrast were pretty naff at being Nazi. We didn’t build our first motorway until 1958.
Therefore if people want to use the environmentalist are fascists/Nazis kind of logic, then it should be pointed out that you are fascist/Nazi if you own a car and drive on motorways, as this is what the Nazis did. I would also point out that the Nazis ran a strong anti smoking campaign. Therefore if you disagree with smoking, because it is bad for your health, then you are by this kind of definition a Nazi. If you were to carry on using this kind of logic I think everyone could end up being labelled a Nazi, because we all do ordinary everyday things that the Nazis used to do like organising holidays for workers orhelping the poor. Hang on there, helping the poor! That means that Mother Teresa must be a Nazi, because that’s what the Nazis did.
Apollo 11 anniversary videos showed why flying cars won’t work. The late Neil Armstrong and one other test pilot got to practice strapping on the Lunar Modlue, panels removed, and fly it– over bare fields with no trees. Each time, theyhad to eject.
If there is an illustrated edition, I’m in! My current copy will probably fall apart by the time it’s available, unless I take it easy and stop (HA!) reading it.
Cliff and JMG – the separation of magic and technology is an interesting phenomenon indeed, and it hadn’t occurred to me how recently it began. It almost looks like an alchemical operation to separate, purify, and (presumably) eventually recombine the two. Makes me a bit concerned that contemporary explorations in the areas where magic and technology overlap might be premature in some kind of historic sense.
My own take on ecofascism is that it is little more than a shadow that folks with political agendas project. I think that it is little different than the label of “witch” and those using the term are gearing up for a witch hunt. Are there genuine ecofascists, probably, but the articles are not about that. They are about scapegoating, something I have very little patience for. We’ve all seen how over-blown the term “racist” has become. The exact same thing an happen to “ecofascist”.
I agree with the rest of your assessment; all of this is blown way out of proportion.
Hear hear! I spent the morning in the garden, later today I’m gifting plants to a gardener, and I’m currently in a frenzy of seed saving. While I’m ethnically Jewish and Danish, no matter. Sannion, a priest of Dionysus who is half Blackfoot Indian got accused of being Nazi. For real — he discusses it here: https://thehouseofvines.com/2019/06/25/i-do-not-see-it/
That’s the thing, to my mind we’re in the midst of a ” first they came for the trade unionists…” sort of moment. The left has embraced totalitarian tactics of guilt by association, and the problem with totalitarianism is one’s innocence is no protection. When I was 16 I read _The Gulag Archipelago_ and I encourage everyone interested to at least read the first chapter when he discusses “Arrest”. It can be read here: https://archive.org/stream/AleksandrSolzhenitsynTheGulagArchipelago/Aleksandr_Solzhenitsyn_The_Gulag_Archipelago_djvu.txt
“Arrest! Need it be said that it is a breaking point in your life, a bolt of lightning which has scored a
direct hit on you? That it is an unassimilable spiritual earthquake not every person can cope with, as
a result of which people often slip into insanity?
The Universe has as many different centers as there are living beings in it. Each of us is a center of
the Universe, and that Universe is shattered when they hiss at you: “You are under arrest. ”
If you are arrested, can anything else remain unshattered by this cataclysm?
But the darkened mind is incapable of embracing these displacements in our universe, and both the
most sophisticated and the veriest simpleton among us, drawing on all life’s experience, can gasp out
only: “Me? What for?” ”
And so the stakes are real, and I’m very, very troubled that the discourse now is slipping into vigilance against “ecofascists”. That is a disparate, agglomerated category large enough to include anyone who worships the old gods of Europe, passionate gardeners, seed savers, cranks, and non-conformists. this is broad enough to include anyone involved in natural conservation for any reason. This is serious, and I perceive it staring many of us in the face right now, Solzhenitsyn continues: “And you’ll find nothing better to respond with than a lamblike bleat: “Me? What for?” ”
The issue is that Norse mythology, symbolism, and religion is already politicized. Galina Krasskova has been doxxed something like four times. All of these hit pieces that mention “ecosfascism” also mention runes and they make no mention of the reality that there explicitly universalist, anti-racist Heathen organizations. To me this is demagogic witch-hunting, with guilt by association and with one’s mere innocence no protection.
See how the term “racist” has ballooned out of all proportion. The same exact thing can happen to the term “ecofascist”.
My apologies for the rather dour tone of this response; again, I consider this rather serious, obviously, and feel that silence is no virtue in a moment like this.
Apparently the climate’s sensitivity to increasing CO2 levels is significantly higher than the models used up to now had been showing. Newer models show greater sensitivity to increasing levels of CO2 than those used prerviously.
Bottom line: There will likely be even more global warming than climate scientist predicted.
Here’s the url of a post (on Weather Underground) that goes into details:
The novena instructions have been submitted to the other site.
You might be interested in this article about the campus progressive hijinks that I stumbled across: The Real Problem At Yale Is Not Free Speech. It’s written by a Yale alumnus who came from a lower class background, and who lived through some of the weirder controversies at the university.
She says that the majority of students, who come from rich and powerful families, spend a lot of time and effort pretending to be poorer than they are in an effort to avoid having to take responsibility for the state of the world. So they try to identify with the victims of the current system. On the other hand, they don’t actually want to give up any of their wealth or power, so they avoid doing anything that might actually help the real victims.
Thus you have the rationale for the “circular firing squad” nature of it all: find a heretic to take the blame for all of society’s problems, and ostracize them in order to absolve yourself. When that doesn’t actually fix anything, repeat the process. Thus you get the ever-evolving purity games where the rules are ambiguous and change frequently: it makes it easier to identify a new heretic.
The good news that I took from this is that this is basically a game played by the upper end of the salary class, and those who hope to be there. Everyone else realizes what a farce it is, even if they’re too afraid to say so.
“Only resist what you want to strengthen.” From a pagan perspective, the crackdown on “ecofascists” might turn out to be a very good thing, as it apparently includes a mass assault by the privileged upper classes against Norse paganism. Heathenry has a large base among the working class and an ethos of facing conflict with courage; an attack by privileged liberals might be just what it needs to become the next big religious movement in this country.
It occurs to me that our host really was a perspiring writer last week, as was anyone else in the area. I hope that’s the last big heat wave of the season. I just heard from a relative up that way who mentioned nothing about unusual weather this week.
Yes! What modern woke-ists seem to be asking for, is to go back to Jim Crow but this time disadvantage the whites instead.
Glad to hear you are getting some medical help. It makes too much sense to take advantage of the price differentials between out two countries. If you happen to be at the Greater Guadalajara Area, and wish to meet and have a chat, please drop me a line. My email account is from the company that claimed to be Not Evil, my user name the same as shown above (except for the tilde) in lowercase.
The Green Lift, you hit the nail on the head. Besides, if “Americans” were really so concerned about the suffering of others, why do they not get morally outraged and upset about what the Soviet Communists and the Chinese Communists have carried out, during the 20th Century? Seems to me that “Americans” only fixate on the sins of the Axis Powers, merely because America decisively defeated them.
“Americans” never seem to be able to ever defeat any Communist countries. Sure, the US Veterans of The Second World War gloat and gloat about it. Moreover, the US Media, it would seem, is so very fixated on the Nazis and the Klan, that they forget to their peril that the Communists are every bit as lethal and vicious as either. Used to annoy me no end.
Besides, “Politically Correct” and “Politically Incorrect” were, in their origins, Soviet Communist terminology. I am sure that, one day, others will realize that there is no actual purpose to going off to any form of Higher Education. I know I sure regret going to the local Community College. I certainly hope that the Community College Act is repealed. Should never have been enacted at all.
Moreover, I remember when the Soviet Union actually fell. Apartheid South Africa, which was at least as vilified by the US Media, soon fell afterwards.
Jasmine King, what you have written was really interesting to read. This is especially so since the US Media never gets tired of condemning Nazism. Why do they not similarly condemn Communism? After all, did the Communists not do much the same things– sending their victims to Prison Camps, shooting them into mass graves, and torturing them to death? Of course, others seem to feel it was different. Done for different reasons.
You know, I never actually thought of it the way you do. Still, President Eisenhower did swipe the idea of an Interstate Highway from his supposed enemies, the Nazis. Always thought that kind of funny. This is especially so, since “Americans” seem to consider themselves to be so morally superior to said Nazis. Mind you, I am no fan of the Nazis myself! Still, the US documentaries and movies about The Second World War, betray the stupidity and bigotry of those that make them. And, this, in my view, are precisely why they are so very interesting to actually watch– critically.
The first thing to notice, is that they almost never focus on Soviet sins. They focus on Nazi sins, and then it would seem merely to rationalize what the US,in its turn, carried out against the German people, during and after The Second World War. This is most interesting for various reasons. And, I am most sure that you have noticed that, as well.
The Green Lift– I really find it interesting, too, that almost none of the Communist leadership, for all their crock tears for the Workers or Peasants, of the World, were themselves either Workers or Peasants. Odd that. A curious except, of course, was that most infamous Communist, Joseph Stalin, as well as Mao Zedong. Have you noticed that too? I wonder. I should probably look into that, one day.
re ecofascism – I wonder if the stages of grief are playing into this as well. First there was denial, now there is anger, with environmentalists as the scapegoat. Makes sense. We are often angry at what we know is right, but that we don’t want to face up to..
I was reading a novel that included an Alchemist in it (Highland Dragon Warrior by Isabel Cooper) and she was doing things (collecting ingredients, missing elements, applying potions) at certain times based on the influences of various planets, avoiding other things due to personal moods or situations etc. You mentioned the other day about someone waiting until Mercury (iirc) was out of x or into y before buying something.
Do those effects play out whether you believe them or not? Just wondering in terms of mass pharmaceutical manufacturing is there a difference between drug runs that are done during the times where your Alchemist/Astrologer type would be doing it and the ones done at times when the same wouldn’t touch that process with a 10 foot Hungarian?
I agree with the author regarding this topic. When I was growing up as a kid in the 60’s I remember watching the TV Show “The 21st Centrury” with Walter Cronkite and all the wonderful advancements we were told about. What we were told to expect and what we got i.e. “reality” were two totally different things.
Although I must say I remember when I was a little boy my Dad bought me a futuristic model car and in that model car were flat screen TV’s in the back seat. That was about the most accurate thing I remember that came true. Besides that we are still driving on asphalt roads and not wearing Star Trek uniforms.
For a vision of the future that is neither dystopian or monofuture, including examples of this future realized (in small ways) you should follow urbanist Brent Toderian:
His vision is based on cities designed around people and bicycles, not cars.
It almost looks like an alchemical operation to separate, purify, and (presumably) eventually recombine the two.
@Chris Henningsen: Now there’s an interesting idea! I wonder what the intent of such an operation would be. A purifying and revitalizing of the human imagination?
Very late to the comments but I thought I’d mention a bit about the 737 – 757 issue. The major reason Boeing did not resuscitate the 757 design is that they wanted to introduce a plane that any 737-certified pilot could fly with minimal additional training. The pool of 757-certified pilots is much smaller than the pool of 737-certified pilots, as the 737 has been around an extra two decades and there many more of them out there.
At the extreme end of the cycle, but I saw this post/discussion and wanted to pass it along:
In particular, I saw comments from one of the folks with whom I had more cordial relations back when I was active (from what I’ve gathered, he’s a lawyer based in DC, which explains a lot).
Two relevant extracts of his from the ensuing discussion thread re rural America and its future:
It’s trite, but if there ain’t a Starbucks a lot of people aren’t interested. Small towns have their charm to be sure, but they aren’t compatible with the modern era. We might see an uptick in small town growth if teleworking becomes more mainstream, but I’m just not seeing a large scale emigration event from the cities to small town America happening. This is a river that’s been flowing one way for a long time now; realistically, we’re talking at least 200+ years.
…I’m of the school that the suburbs just become metro and the ex-burbs become the suburbs and the ex-burbs expand out. I think the mega-city scenario is the most likely.
@ Twin Ruler said:
“You know, I never actually thought of it the way you do. Still, President Eisenhower did swipe the idea of an Interstate Highway from his supposed enemies, the Nazis. Always thought that kind of funny. This is especially so, since “Americans” seem to consider themselves to be so morally superior to said Nazis.”
Actually though, even if the idea was “stolen” from the Nazis, interstate highways were built to fight the communists. The original funding was through the Interstate Defense Highway Act of 1956. In this regard, one in every five miles of interstate highways is straight in order to allow for the landing of planes in an emergency. The Nazis were the enemy in WWII, but by the time he was in office President Eisenhower was focused on a new enemy and interstate highways were part of the defensive bulwark. Furthermore, I’d argue the Nazis (as opposed to German people generally) made it easy for nearly everyone else to consider themselves morally superior, even people who should have no such claim to superiority. Industrialized genocide can do that.
There was also plenty of outrage in America about the “sins” of Communists during the Cold War, but the possibility of thermonuclear war limited the range of responses. Other than spy thrillers, the nature of the Cold War limited the types of movies that could depict the conflict.
Anyone who has read the Dune saga should consider some of Herbert’s other works, like Destination: VOID where he speculates on the nature of AI as a truly thinking machine. You can see his fascination with Jungian psychology much more clearly. I was disappointed that we never got to have an ending to Dune, other than an open ending with representatives of humanity leaving the universe in a seed like no-ship. I took that as an invitation and as an exercise I wrote a fan-fic first chapter of a possible Dune 7.
Large cities are near trade port in any country.
Because people want to buy cheap food and fuel near trade port.
It is difficult to build a large city in the moon or space,reson of no cheap food and fuel .
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